Arts Everyday Living: Van Gogh, Words and Colors—The Sea and the Stars

Reposted blog.


Colour expresses something by itself…….

Vincent van Gogh’s passages on color in his letters to his brother Theo and other correspondents, not only complement some of his greatest paintings, but are sometimes works of art in themselves.  He was very knowledgeable about color theory and studied the subject intensively.

Here is just one example: an extraordinary excerpt from a letter by Vincent to Theo, written while he was staying at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on the Mediterranean Sea in June, 1888.


One night I went for a walk by the sea, along the empty shore. It was not gay, but neither was it sad—it was–beautiful.  The deep blue sky was flecked with clouds of a blue deeper than the fundamental blue of intense cobalt, and others of a clearer blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way.  In the blue depth the stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, rose, brighter, flashing more like jewels, than they do at home—even in Paris: opals you might call them, emeralds, lapis, rubies, sapphires.


Did Van Gogh create a vision to match his words?  If so, it hasn’t been discovered yet.  And perhaps even Vincent couldn’t communicate his revelation by the ocean through his usual means of paint and canvas.

However, I have included a luminous watercolor done during his trip of fishermen’s boats brightly colored with a spectrum of red, green, blue, violet, and yellow.



Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, 1888, watercolor, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia




The above image is used solely for educational purposes.


First quote from Vincent’s letter to Theo, late October 1885.

Second quote from Vincent’s letter to Theo, around June 4, 1888.



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