Most unusually among major painters, Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) was also an accomplished writer. His letters provide both a unique self-portrait and a vivid picture of the contemporary cultural scene. Van Gogh emerges as a complex but captivating personality, struggling with utter integrity to fulfill his artistic destiny. This major new edition, which is based on an entirely new translation, reinstating a large number of passages omitted from earlier editions, is expressly designed to reveal his inner journey as much as the outward facts of his life. It includes complete letters wherever possible, linked with brief passages of connecting narrative and showing all the pen-and-ink sketches that originally went with them. Despite the familiar image of Van Gogh as an antisocial madman who died a martyr to his art, his troubled life was rich in friendships and generous passions. In his letters we discover the humanitarian and religious causes he embraced, his fascination with the French Revolution, his striving for God and for ethical ideals, his desperate courtship of his cousin, Kee Vos, and his largely unsuccessful search for love. All of this, suggests De Leeuw, demolishes some of the myths surrounding Van Gogh and his career but brings hint before us as a flesh-and-blood human being, an individual of immense pathos and spiritual depth. Perhaps even more moving, these letters illuminate his constant conflicts as a painter, torn between realism, symbolism and abstraction; between landscape and portraiture; between his desire to depict peasant life and the exciting diversions of the city; between his uncanny versatility as a sketcher and his ideal of the full-scale finished tableau. Since Van Gogh received little feedback from the public, he wrote at length to friends, fellow artists and his family, above all to his brother Theo, the Parisian art dealer, who was his confidant and mainstay. Along with his intense powers of visual imagination, Vincent brought to the correspondence almost equally impressive verbal skills, a wide range of literary and cultural references and a total integrity of purpose. To read it is to come face to face with one of the most haunting and exemplary figures in modern Western culture.