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Van Gogh on technique (II)



From a letter dated March, 1884:

“Just consider whether it is sensible to talk a great deal about technique nowadays. You will say that I myself am doing just that—as a matter of fact, I regret it. But as far as I am concerned, I am determined, even when I shall be much more master of my brush than I am now—to go on telling people methodically that I cannot paint. Do you understand? Even when I have achieved a solid manner of my own, more complete and concise than the present one. . .
 

“That thought, I can’t find the right words, is based not on something negative but on something positive. On the positive awareness that art is something greater and higher than our own skill or knowledge or learning. That art is something which, thought produced by human hands, is not wrought by hands alone, but wells up from a deeper source, from man’s soul, while much of the proficiency and technical expertise associated with art reminds of what would be called self-righteousness in religion . . .
 

”The gist of what I am saying in this letter is this. Let us try to grasp the secrets of technique so well that people will be taken in and swear by all that is holy that we have no technique. Let our work be so savant that it seems naïve and does not reek of our cleverness. I do not believe that I have reached this desirable point.”
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