Vincent continues to propose rather improbable schemes to his brother including abandoning his job at the art gallery to become a painter, and suggests certain individuals should be coerced into buying his small sketches. He moves about quite a bit hunting the perfect studio and models for his work. Each place is wonderful for the first month or so, then he begins to get into arguments with the landlord and his neighbors, mostly because he’s late in paying his bills. His father dies about mid book as does one of his early painting tutors and this creates a sense of increased urgency about his work.
By mid book, Vincent no longer requests his brother to return earlier studies but works directly from either models (which he dresses from his collection of clothing) or the landscape. He spends some time in Paris drawing and painting at the academy there rubbing elbows with Lautrec and trading small studies with other artists. Watercolors are a major portion of formal study and he struggles with them—but it is clear that his medium is oil—try imagining his sunflowers done in delicate water color! “The sea, which I love enormously, must be brushed in oil, otherwise one cannot get hold of it.”
Vincent applies his colors so thickly that they drip off the canvas. His orders for paints and canvas and paper were enormous but he was quite particular about the source and their quality. It is amazing how much white he used—ten large tubes of two kinds of white were included in each order but only 1 small tube each of cobalt (blue), crimson, alizarin, three different yellows, burnt sienna, indigo.
His ‘Potato Eaters’ was done about half-way through this book and was clearly influenced by Millet. At the end he is in Arles trying to figure out how to get enough money together to buy a bed and how best to help out Gaugin. He is no longer wondering at his ability, he is churning out work as fast as his supplies will let him. He goes to the fields or orchards each day and paints although his easel frequently blows away in the wind despite his attempts to weight it down. His brother has already figured out that Vincent cannot manage money and so sends him money twice a month plus takes on buying his supplies. In return Vincent sends Theo huge rolls of his completed paintings and drawings arguing with the rail about the price and commissioning cases to be made for the work.
A few letters and notes to persons other than his brother are included—and that is probably the most frustrating part of this set—I would have enjoyed reading some of his brother’s replies—but I’m sure that Vincent could not keep up with them. His letters are full of analysis of other artists, literature, and he routinely describes landscapes in terms of colors and light. Occasionally there are some reprints of his letters with his sketches complete with intended colors. Although he is a prolific letter writer, there are only hints about his actual living circumstances until he runs out of money—-the letters are all about his paintings.
Here are a few quotes from Volume Two.
“What I try to acquire is not to draw a hand but a gesture, not a mathematically correct head but the general expression—in short, life!”
“painted portraits have a life of their own coming straight from the painters soul”
“after a year’s work when the first drudgeries have cleared up, the disposition to meditate, to think and analyze, to feel the beauty in nature and discover you can be an artist for the very reason you possess both diligence and energy” but “in reality I shall never think of my work as finished.”