Exquisite Words from the Journals of Paul Gauguin after the Death of Van Gogh

‘Scattered notes, without sequence, like dreams, like a life all made up of fragments; and because others have shared in it, the love of beautiful things seen in the houses of others. Things that are sometimes childish when they are written, some of them the fruits of one’s leisure, some the classifications of beloved though perhaps foolish ideas, – in defiance of a bad memory, and some rays that pierce to the vital centre of my art. If a work of art were a work of chance, all these notes would be useless. I believe that the thought which has guided my work, a part of my work, is mysteriously linked with a thousand other thoughts, some my own, some those of others…

Sometimes I have gone far back, farther back than the horses of the Parthenon… as far back as the Dada of my babyhood, the good rocking-horse. I have lingered among the Nymphs of Corot, dancing in the sacred wood of Ville-d’Avray… I have the sensation of something endless of which I am the beginning. Moorea on the horizon; the sun is approaching it. I follow its mournful march; without comprehending it I have the sensation of a movement that is going to go on forever: a universal life that will never be extingished.

And lo, the night. Everything is quiet. My eyes close, to see without grasping it the dream in infinite space that flees before me. And I have the sweet sensation of the mournful procession of my hopes…

– Paul Gauguin, Intimate Journals


NB: Featured image is Gauguin’s ‘Day of the God’ (1894). This passage from Gauguin’s journals comes directly after his description of his final communications with Van Gogh before his suicide in 1890, which affected him very deeply. Gauguin had taken Van Gogh under his wing, and they had spent some years together in friendship before Van Gogh’s eventual mental collapse.


Gauguin’s ‘The Painter of Sunflowers’ (1888) depicting Van Gogh. Van Gogh remarked to Gauguin of the image “it is certainly I, but it’s I gone mad!”.

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