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“Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, ‘What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.’ Yes, evil often seems to surpass good. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so I must still have hope.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

View of Amsterdam from Central Station, 1885

It’s the shortest day of the year, and the start of winter. Which confuses me, because hasn’t it been winter for at least a month already? I swear I said goodbye to fall a long time ago. The sky is all one color, a blank slate of gray that spits out just enough rain to get my bike seat thoroughly wet. Everyone huddles against the cold and wind, and we all stay inside next to cheery candles and baked goods.

Still Life with Carafe and Lemons, 1887

I thought today of all days would be a good time to visit the Van Gogh Museum. His life may have been tragically cut short by sickness and his own hand, but no one can argue that his colorful works haven’t bestowed more beauty to the world. So this morning we bundled up and braved the spitting skies to cycle down to Museumplein.

The museum is small, but holds the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world. His first paintings are dreary with gray and brown, but then they explode with color, a burst of cheer on a gloomy day. With great exhibitions on the restoration of his works and even a recreation of his famous bedroom, it’s a fun place to spend a few hours. I’d rank it higher than the Rijksmuseum, even, if only for the popularity of it’s subject.

The Garden of Saint Paul Hospital, 1889

The Harvest, 1888

Still Life with Irises, 1890

His unique brushstrokes and colors still inspire artists today, and he is perhaps one of the most recognizable artists in the world. One way to peek into his fascinating life is by reading his numerous letters, originally published in 1914 and now available online at Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters. Vincent wrote hundreds of letters full of beautiful words on painting, color, faith, society, and more. They’re a wonderful glimpse into his mind and his paintings.

Letter to Theo, July 10, 1888:

“But the sight of the stars always makes me dream in as simple a way as the black spots on the map, representing towns and villages, make me dream.
Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France?
Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.”

Starry Night, 1889

Happy Solstice, friends. It’s uphill to sunlight from here!
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