A new, six volume edition of Vincent Van Gogh's letters has just been published. At a mere £325, I can hope that Santa bags a set for me this Christmas.
I read a lot of his letters a few years ago (in the old Penguin edition) and they are a stunning portrait of the artist. We have this notion of Van Gogh as a kind of idiot savant - the old 'this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you' ideal - but it isn't accurate. He was a highly intelligent, thoughtful, insightful man. There's no question that God - his presence or lack - plays a part in the Van Gogh story, as he does in the stories of so many great artists. The constant questing for some sort of meaning to it all is what defines an artist and for people like Van Gogh, born and brought up in a strict religious environment, the struggle for understanding can be painful indeed. For the sake of his sanity, you might wish Vincent had simply seen sense and renounced his god, but then we might have been denied his artistic genius. That's a pretty selfish way to look at things, I suppose, but there you are.