From ancient Egypt, through Plato, Archimedes, Philostratus, Alciphron, Epicurus, Cicero, Seneca, Horace, Ovid, Pliny the Younger, Ausonius, the apostles James, Judas, Peter, John and Paul, the fathers of the Orthodox Church such as Saint Basil, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Abelard and Heloise, even Petrarch, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Garcilaso de la Vega, Hernán Cortés, Saint Teresa of Jesús, Francisco de Quevedo, Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz , Françoise de Graffigny, Baron de Montesquieu, Leandro Fernández de Moratin, Francisco Cabarrús, Félix Amat, José María Blanco White, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Benito Pérez Galdós, Juan Valera, Fiodor Dostoyevski, Franz Kafka, Antonio Machado and Max Aub, by cite only a few of so many other writers who have cultivated – in the words of Cicero – “conversation in the absence of friends… so as not to blush”: the literary genre of the epistle – in its various modalities (diary, memoirs , monologue, confessions, autobiography) – is one of the most sublime and direct gateways to the very essence of its cultists: men and women who, throughout the various eras of human history, have allowed themselves to remove the veil. that hid, consciously and unconsciously, their own intimacy, at the moment of being naked in all their greatness and all their vulnerability.
\u0009One of these men who opened his heart through the epistle and whose name gives seal to one of the greatest chapters in the history of art of all time, was Vincent van Gogh, the artist who, even before painting with the brush, he did it with the word. What better example than the following fragment taken from the letter he writes to his beloved brother Theo:
\u0009“I write to you from Saintes-Maries, on the shore of the Mediterranean at last. The Mediterranean has a color like mackerel, that is, it changes, you don’t always know if it is green or purple, you don’t always know if it is blue, because in the second the changing reflection has taken on a pink or gray tone… I walked one night on the seashore, on the deserted beach. It wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t sad either, it was beautiful. The deep blue sky was dotted with clouds of a blue deeper than the primary blue of a deep cobalt, and other clouds were a lighter blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. On the blue background the stars shone clear, green, yellow, white, pink, lighter, diamond like the precious stones of ours or of Paris, it is therefore like saying: opals, emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires. The sea seemed to me to be of a very deep ultramarine, the beach of a violet and pale red tone, with bushes on the dune, five meters high, and some Prussian blue bushes…” Yes, van Gogh did not need to have painted to make painting with his writing.
Word by word the author gives brush strokes that little by little form images in which reality is sublimated through words until creating true virtual images in which the painting comes to life in our minds, the predominant element being color. in all its glory. Only in the fragment that I have allowed myself to transcribe, it is possible to notice how the writer-painter draws as if it were a wave, in a sinuous and enveloping movement that ends up being circular, the path of his artist’s gaze from the coastal town to the sea, in the middle of the night, to ascend towards the sky and its stars and then proceed to descend to the beach to conclude his view in the bushes that he sees on the beach.
Incessant movement that accompanies it with the incessant changes of hue that occur at different hours and moments of observation, having the Mediterranean, the sky and the beach as its three main centers of attention. However, at this point it is possible to notice that all the elements revolve around an epicenter: color, and blue in particular. Blue that, together with green, pink, gray and violet, gives life to the changing Mediterranean Sea. Deep, deepest, fundamental blue, intense cobalt, lighter, whitish blue, deeper ultramarine that comes to life in the sky. Deep blue that serves as a background for the clear, greenish, yellow, white, pinkish, polychrome brilliance of the diamond stars that adorn the firmament like precious stones, while on the pale violet-red beach the bushes stand with another blue: that of Prussia.
In short: a whole chromatic effluvium is what this color artist offers us in a few lines. The man who wanted to be a mystic through religion but who ended up being one through the exaltation of nature through art, both plastic and, as we can see, literary.
But van Gogh himself knew that. For some reason he himself had said: “paintings have a life of their own that is derived from the soul of the painter.” The same soul that peeked through his literature.