Alienated and depressed, Vincent knew exactly what had gone wrong with his life. „Like everyone else, I have need of relationships of friendship or affection or trusting companionship….“ The only person who would ever succeed in fulfilling these needs did so by letter. Theo and Vincent wrote to each other so frequently because the two brothers rarely met, and when they did Vincent’s personality put intolerable strains on their relationship. For all his neediness and affectionate nature, he could also be hectoring and thin-skinned, easily wounded and unable to stand contradiction. Out of necessity, not choice, therefore, this profoundly lonely man lived apart from his family and friends. „If I should have to continue trying to keep further and further out of other people’s way…then I’m overcome by a feeling of sorrow and I must struggle against despair.“ By writing letters Vincent was able to converse easily, to marshal his thoughts, to clarify, to revise, and to argue a point without losing his temper—in effect to conduct by post the relationships he couldn’t sustain face to face.
Viel wichtiger ist aber, dass Dorment anhand der Briefe mit den vielen romantischen Mythen aufräumt, die sich um van Gogh ranken. So ist es blanker Unsinn zu behaupten, van Gogh hätte in emotionalem, unreflektierem Schaffensrausch seine Bilder gemacht. In Wahrheit war er ein gebildeter und sehr belesener Künstler, der seine Werke genau plante und darüber reflektierte:
Van Gogh turned his rage upon himself, sliced off his ear with a razor, and handed it to a prostitute. This was the onset of the recurring bipolar illness in which he experienced aural and visual hallucinations, with periods of exaltation alternating with self-harm.
Because of this Vincent is still popularly seen as an inspired madman who wielded his paintbrush instinctively, as though it were a conduit for the feelings roiling through his tormented soul. In this reading of his work, his breakdowns in some way fueled his genius. But the letters show that the exact opposite happened. His mental illness, far from driving his career forward, interrupted it by stopping his ability to paint; and if you didn’t know anything about the artist who painted the pictures during the year he spent in the asylum in Saint-Rémy, I don’t think you would guess that ill health stopped him from working for months at a time. Unlike the schizophrenic Richard Dadd, whose pictures are symptomatic of his madness, it would be hard to detect any trace of Van Gogh’s bouts of insanity in his art.
Hätte diese Briefausgabe natürlich sehr gerne in meiner Bibliothek, aber 600 Dollar sind doch zu viel des Guten.