Van Gogh wrote a letter to his friend, Australian painter John Peter Russell, in mid-June of 1888, when he was 35. In slightly slanting, elegant script, he relates that he’s been meaning to write, but has been consumed by work; it’s harvest season in Arles, and he’s “always in the fields,” which is reflected in the charming line drawing on the left side of the letter.
McKnight points to way the artist’s personal pronoun I indicates the isolation van Gogh felt. “There is an emotional disconnect and distance,” she offers. Another notable clue is the word “present,” which trails off into the far-right margin—a possible sign of depression, McKnight says.
While noting the way the artist habitually fails to cross Ts or dot lowercase Is, she points to his signature (located below the drawing on the left) as a point of contrast. “When he signs his own name—our names are our own personal calling card—he steps into his personal power,” McKnight says. “The pressure is strong and clear. He completely remembers to cross his Ts, and with pressure (meaning determination). He dots his I strongly and succinctly [in his signature], and precisely above the I stem.” The enlarged size of his signature, she adds, further demonstrates van Gogh’s confidence.