Vincent was a terrier when it came to any verbal tussle, and I'm sure he'd have pulled me to the ground on that one. Yet I like to imagine that secretly, he might have agreed that it was the attempt to express that mattered, not the success in doing so. Ten days after painting The Night Café, he was turning his own argument almost perversely round on himself, in a letter to Theo: “It always seems to me that poetry is more terrible than painting, although painting is dirtier and more damned annoying, in fact. And after all, the painter says nothing; he keeps quiet, and I like that even better.”
Julian Bell is a writer and painter. He is the author of the recent biography Vincent van Gogh.