G. Albert Aurier (5 May 1865 – 5 October 1892) was a poet, art critic and painter. He was also the first to publish a review of the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh while Van Gogh was alive. The following is an excerpt from the article followed by a response from Van Gogh himself.
G. Albert Aurier Mercure de France, January, 1890
Beneath skies that sometimes dazzle like faceted sapphires or turquoises., that sometimes are molded of infernal, hot, noxious, and blinding sulfurs; beneath skies like streams of molten metals and crystals, which, at times, expose radiating, torrid solar disks; beneath the incessant and formidable streaming of every conceivable effect of light, in heavy, flaming, burning atmospheres that seem to be exhaled from fantastic furnaces where gold and diamonds and similar gems are volatilized–there is the disquieting and disturbing display of a strange nature, that is at once entirely realistic, and yet almost supernatural, of an excessive nature where everything–beings and things, shadows and lights, forms and colours–rears and rises up with a raging will to howl its own essential song in the most intense and fiercely high-pitched timbre: Trees, twisted like giants in battle, proclaiming with the gestures of their gnarled menacing arms and with the tragic waving of their green manes their indomitable power, the pride of their musculature, their blood-hot sap, their eternal defiance of hurricane, lightning and malevolent Nature; cypresses that expose their nightmarish, flamelike, black silhouettes, mountains that arch their backs like mammoths or rhinoceri; white and pink and golden orchards, like the idealizing dreams of virgins; squatting, passionately contorted houses, in a like manner to beings who exult, who suffer, who think; stones, terrains, bushes, grassy fields, gardens, and rivers that seem sculpted out of unknown minerals, polished, glimmering, iridescent, enchanting, flaming landscapes, like the effervescence of multicoloured enamels in some alchemist’s diabolical crucible; foliage that seems of ancient bronze, of new copper, of spun glass; flowerbeds that appear less like flowers than opulent jewelry fashioned from rubies, agates, onyx, emeralds, corundums, chrysoberyls, amethysts, and chalcedonies; it is the universal, mad and blinding coruscation of things; it is matter and all of Nature frenetically contorted . . . raised to the heights of exacerbation; it is form, becoming nightmare; colour, becoming flame, lava and precious stone; light turning into conflagration; life, into burning fever.
Such . . . is the impression left upon the retina when it first views the strange, intense, and feverish work of Vincent van Gogh, that compatriot, and unworthy descendent of the old Dutch masters.
To read the entire review click here: http://www.vggallery.com/misc/archives/aurier.htm
An Excerpt of Van Gogh’s letter to Aurier in Response to the Article:
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Sunday, 9 or Monday, 10 February
Dear Mr Aurier,
Thank you very much for your article in the Mercure de France,1 which greatly surprised me. I like it very much as a work of art in itself, I feel that you create colours with your words; anyway I rediscover my canvases in your article, but better than they really are — richer, more significant. However, I feel ill at ease when I reflect that what you say should be applied to others rather than to me . . .
Van Gogh continues the long letter describing artists, inspirations and techniques that he admired, and ends with:
. . . In the meantime, dear sir, please accept my grateful thanks for your article. If I were to come to Paris in the spring I shall certainly not fail to come and thank you in person.
Vincent van Gogh