Cultural Correspondence: Letters and the People Behind Them

See some famous faces then scroll to reveal letters penned by their hallowed hands

By Google Arts & Culture

Elegant Lady Writing at Her Desk (ca. 1662-64) by Gabriel MetsuThe Leiden Collection

Before the advent of instant communication, the best way to reach people was through the mail. Scroll to see correspondence from notable figures around the world!

Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (1937) by Frida KahloNational Museum of Women in the Arts

Frida Kahlo, one of Mexico's most beloved artists, was also a prolific writer of letters. She hand-wrote letters to friends, lovers, and relatives throughout her life, like the one addressed to Leon Trotsky painted here. This 1937 piece resides at NMWA in Washington DC.

Frida Kahlo letter to Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo letter to Diego Rivera (1940) by Frida Kahlo and Diego RiveraArchives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Frida wrote this letter to her husband, the painter Diego Rivera, in 1940.

...and sealed it with a kiss.

Chopin (c.1851-1862) by Maximilian FajansMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Prelude nº15 in D flat

Frédéric Chopin was a shooting star in the world of music, composing hundreds of pieces for piano in his brief 39 years. Maximilian Fajans created this lithograph in the decade after Chopin's death.

Letter by Chopin written from Keir to Marie de RozièresThe Cobbe Collection Trust

Chopin penned this letter to his pupil Marie de Rozières and said, "country-house life in high society is really very interesting. They have nothing like it on the continent."

LIFE Photo Collection

Florence Nightingale, a British statistician and activist, laid the foundation for modern nursing. After a spiritual experience, she dedicated her life to helping people--caring for soldiers during the Crimean war, founding the first secular nursing school, and much more.

Florence Nightingale's Vision letter - page 7Leeds Museums & Galleries

In this letter to her cousin Marianne Nicholson, she describes the vision which inspired her lifelong quest of service. You can read a transcript of the letter courtesy of Leeds Museums & Galleries.

Self-Portrait (1887) by Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890)The Art Institute of Chicago

Vincent van Gogh's storied life is well documented in his numerous letters to friends and relations, though the lion's share of the surviving correspondence is addressed to his brother Theo.

Autograph letter, dated 17 October 1888, to Paul Gauguin (1888) by Vincent van GoghThe Morgan Library & Museum

Van Gogh often included sketches with his letters, like this one written to Paul Gauguin. Do you recognize the painting it became? This letter from October of 1888 tells Gaugin of the "autumn splendors" he'd see on the way to Arles.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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