“I not only began drawing relatively late, but in addition I may well not have so many years of life ahead of me…As far as the time that remains for my work is concerned, I believe that without being premature I can assume that this body of mine will still keep going, despite everything, for a certain number of years yet – say, between six and ten. I feel all the more able to assume this since at present there is not yet a proper ‘despite everything’ in my life…I do not intend to spare myself or pay much heed to moods or problems – it is a matter of some indifference to me whether I have a longer or shorter life, and in any case physical mollycoddling such as a doctor can accomplish up to a point is not my taste.
“So I am continuing in my life of ignorance, though there is one thing I do know: within a few years I must accomplish work of a certain order; I do not need to be in too much of a hurry, because no good comes of that – but I must go on working calmly and quietly, with as great a regularity and composure as possible, and as much to the point as possible; the world is my concern only insofar as I have a certain debt and obligation, so to speak – because I have been wandering about this world these thirty years – to leave a certain something in memory of me behind, drawings or paintings, out of gratitude – not made in order to gratify some fashion or other but to express an honest human feeling. That work, then, is my objective…And that is how I see myself – as a man who must produce something with a heart and love in it, within a few years, and who must produce it by willpower…Something has to be created in these years; this thought is my guiding light whenever I draw up my plans for work. So now that yearning to work to the full extent of my powers will be rather more comprehensible to you, as will a certain resolve to work with simple means. And perhaps you can also understand that I do not view my studies as existing in their own right but rather always have my mind on my work as a whole.”
(Excerpts from a letter from the summer of 1883, Vincent van Gogh)