Vincent Van Gogh is one of the world’s most acclaimed and beloved painters, and his inspiring words live on in many books and popular media today. From mental illness to personal tragedies, Van Gogh’s quotes reflect the full gamut of his life experience. Here, discover 20 of Van Gogh’s most thought-provoking quotes that still inspire readers today.
Vincent Van Gogh is a renowned post-impressionist painter, who captured the vivid colors and energy of the late 19th century art period. His captivating works of art, including the iconic “Starry Night”, have made him a beloved figure in the art history of the world. Van Gogh was also a prodigious writer, and his vivid quotes reveal the inner dimensions of his troubled psychological experiences. Whether he was discussing his tortured soul, the beauty of nature, or the peace of silence, these quotes display the deep yearning beneath his troubled surface. Here we explore 20 of Van Gogh’s most thought-provoking quotes which will lead any reader towards further contemplation.
- On Mental Health
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Van Gogh’s struggles with mental health were well documented in both his correspondence and in his artworks. This quote serves as a testament to how his mental anguish did not stop him from creating, but rather propelled him to create. In this quote, Van Gogh serves not only as a reminder of persevering against one’s own inner struggle, but also for achieving freedom from self-doubt.
- On Creativity
“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart and soul.”
This quote reflects the ambition and drive of Van Gogh’s work as an artist. His fondness for nature, abstract shapes, and repeating patterns was a testament to the intent focus and reverence with which he viewed the world. Here we see Van Gogh’s eagerness to explore his creative world, encapsulated in just a few words.
- On Nature
“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
This quote speaks to the awe-inspiring power of nature. The galaxies, universe, and vast open sky have a way of putting our own struggles and day-to-day lives into perspective. With this quote, Van Gogh encourages us to find solace in nature and all its wonders.
- On Growing Old
“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.”
Like many of the dais of his era, Van Gogh was obsessed with the passage of time, and the inevitability of growing old. He sought more than anything to leave a lasting impression, to be remembered as the sensitive and talented artist that he was. This quote encapsulates both the fear of coming age, as well as his desire to be remembered.
- On Solitude
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
This quote speaks to the beauty to be found in solitude. One can always transform the mundane and ordinary into something extraordinary and meaningful. Alone, mundane tasks can add up to create something much greater.
- On Art
“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
Van Gogh believed that the power of creativity and passion should be used to bring joy and uplift those around us. The most meaningful works of art are the ones filled with love and compassion for those around us. This quote speaks to the power of Van Gogh’s belief in art, as a form of love and human connection.
- On Spirituality
“And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”
Here, Van Gogh speaks to the potential of spirituality to provide meaning in our lives. He suggests that by loving and accepting one another, we can cultivate deeper forms of connection and understanding. Even in his most troubled moments, his search for deeper meaning and awe-inspiring connection was never ending.
- On Creativity and Freedom
“Loneliness is a lack of something to express, of someone welcome to share a life with.”
Van Gogh’s took comfort in his creative pursuits and often used solitude to escape from a world of unwelcome judgement. He oftentimes felt lonely and seeking a form of expression that would be accepted and celebrated. This quote speaks to the power of creativity and freedom of self-expression. No matter how dark Van Gogh’s struggles may have been, he never lost sight of his passion for his art and his needs for a deeper connection.
- On Life Struggles
“It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
In this quote, Van Gogh displays his adeptness in overcoming his troubles and allowing his creativity to remain untainted. It acknowledges the power of missteps, struggles, and mistakes, and suggests that even when life throws us curveballs, we should accept our flaws, laugh at our missteps, and attempt to move forward.
- On Hardships
“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
Throughout Van Gogh’s life, he faced a vast expanse of hardships, doubts, and tragedy. But even in his darkest moments, he acknowledged the power and beauty of the night. This quote speaks to his ability to find meaning and promise even in his darkest moments.
- On letting go
“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to.”
Here, Van Gogh speaks to the loneliness of his creative struggles, and suggests that it is only in nature that we can find solace and freedom. Nature is the one constant, the one place where we can be free to revel in our joys and sorrows. By listening to its language, Van Gogh believed that we can find a deeper joy than what the world at large has to offer.
- On Passion and Joy
“I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God’s help I shall succeed.”
Like many of Van Gogh’s works, this quote speaks to his troubles and his desire to main a joyous and passionate outlook. Though his struggles were sometimes too great to be overcome, he never lost sight of the possibility of hope and joy. He believed that with the help of divine intervention, his wildest dreams could come true.
- On Life’s Difficulties
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
This quote speaks to the power of taking risks and pushing forward despite the fear of failure. Life’s difficulties can feel insurmountable, but Van Gogh believed that we should never remain still, even when faced with our toughest of roads. This quote shows us that sometimes the greatest joy can be found in the most treacherous of paths.
- On Ambition and Careers
“If you hear a voice within you saying ‘you are not a painter,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Van Gogh faced his share of critiques throughout his career. Despite his detractors, he would never let the opinions of others dictate his success. Rather, he saw his own internal voice and determination as the only conduit for inspiring results.
- On Life-Long Learning
“I want to enquire seriously into the lives of the astronomers, the zoologists, the philosophers, and seek and learn from various wisdom and things of which I am ignorant.”
Here, Van Gogh speaks to the importance of life-long learning. He was constantly seeking to broaden his horizons, and was always eager to learn more. He sought to understand those around him, and in so doing, to understand himself.
- On Courage
“If one is master of one thing, one is master of all.”
Van Gogh was determined to become master of his craft, no matter what obstacles life presented. He believed that conquering his fears, his passions, and his art, could build understanding and give him courage.
- On Creativity and Perseverance
“I cannot change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.”
In this quote Van Gogh reminds us of the perseverance necessary to achieve success. Even though he often faced difficult times and lack of recognition, he never gave up on his passion and ambition for his art.
- On Love
“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”