To Theo van Gogh.

Van Gogh wrote 903 letters to fellow artists, prominent dealers, and, most notably, his beloved brother, Theo. Detailing everything from his daily routine to his painterly endeavors, these correspondences offer us a glimpse into Van Gogh’s life—and the troubles that tragically shaped it. In the below excerpt from his letters to Theo van Gogh, he talks dreamily about the power of human thought and will while combating the distractions.

What is drawing? How does one get there? It’s working one’s way through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do. How can one get through that wall? — since hammering on it doesn’t help at all. In my view, one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently. And behold, how can one remain dedicated to such a task without allowing oneself to be lured from it or distracted, unless one reflects and organizes one’s life according to principles? And it’s the same with other things as it is with artistic matters. And the great isn’t something accidental; it must be willed. Whether originally deeds lead to principles in a person or principles lead to deeds is something that seems to me as unanswerable and as little worth answering as the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. But I believe it’s a positive thing and of great importance that one should try to develop one’s powers of thought and will.

Vincent Van Gogh, To Theo.