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Introduction
Even more remarkable than the exchange between Degas and Nast is the totally neglected relationship between Vincent van Gogh and Nast. Understanding van Gogh's affection for the American cartoonist actually helps to demystify the Dutch painter who has for so long assumed a status of mythical proportion. Indeed, the best kept secret in van Gogh scholarship is the painter's overriding ambition to become a magazine illustrator and cartoonist. I am not here referring to a simple stage in his development on the way to mastery-which in any case, he never thought he achieved-but rather to the ever-present influence this primary goal exercised on his entire cultural practice. The curious exclusion or strategic avoidance of van Gogh's commercial art intentions is inseparable from the persistent valuing of his production within the context of mad artistic genius. In effect, van Gogh has been packaged and successfully marketed by the very forces that deny his own marketplace preoccupation. Thus comprehending van Gogh's original commitment to illustration and cartooning should help clarify the larger question of his perception of the artist's social role.
 
Albert I. Boime,
Professor of Art History at UCLA
 

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