Tuesday, March 8, 2016

From a Van Gogh letter

Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, December 26, 1878:

Lately, during the dark days before Christmas, snow was lying on the ground. Everything reminded one then of the medieval paintings by, say, Peasant Brueghel, and by so many others who have known how to depict the singular effect of red & green, black & white so strikingly. And often the sights here have made me think of the work of, for example, Thys Maris or Albrecht Dürer. There are sunken roads here, overgrown with thornbushes and gnarled old trees with their freakish roots, which resemble perfectly that road on Dürer’s etching, Le chevalier et la mort.

Thus, a few days ago, the miners returning home in the evening towards dusk in the white snow were a singular sight. These people are quite black when they emerge into the daylight from the dark mines, looking just like chimney sweeps. Their dwellings are usually small and should really be called huts, they lie scattered along the sunken roads, in the woods and on the slopes of the hills. Here and there one can still see moss-covered roofs, and in the evening a friendly light shines through the small-paned windows.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh , ed. Ronald de Leeuw, trans. Arnold Pomerans (New York: Penguin, 1997).
Peasant Brueghel: Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Matthijs Maris: this painting might suggest what Van Gogh had in mind. Albrecht Dürer: here is the etching.

Also from Van Gogh’s letters
Admire as much as you can”
“It was a bright autumn day and a beautiful walk”

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