Quote Origin: Normality is a Well-Paved Street; It Is Good for Walking, But No Flowers Will Grow There

Vincent van Gogh? Sarah Harding? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Conforming to social norms is much easier than following a divergent, colorful, and eccentric pathway through life. This notion has been expressed as follows:

Normality is a paved road; it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.

The famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh has received credit for this statement, but I have become skeptical because I have never seen a solid citation. Would you please explore his topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The website of the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam has an extensive database of letters from Vincent Van Gogh with English translations. QI performed many search queries on this database and was unable to locate a match for the quotation within the database.

Van Gogh died in 1890, and the earliest match known to QI appeared in a 2009 exhibition catalog titled “Vincent Van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes” from the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 2009, Vincent Van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes, Exhibition Catalog from Kunstmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland, With contributions by Carel Blotkamp, Gottfried Boehm, Bernhard Mendes Bürgi, Laura Coyle, Walter Feilchenfeldt, Seraina Werthemann, and Nina Zimmer, Quotation appears on front flap of dustjacket, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dan J. Bye) [/ref]

“Normality is a well-paved street; it is good for walking—but no flowers will grow there.”
Vincent van Gogh

The quotation occurred on the front flap of the dust jacket. It did not appear in the main body of the book. Unfortunately, no citation was provided. At present, QI would not ascribe this statement to Vincent van Gogh because this evidence is too weak. The creator remains anonymous. Perhaps a future researcher will uncover a superior citation.

Additional details are available in the article on the Medium website which is available here.

Image Notes:  Public domain image of “Irises” by Vincent van Gogh circa 1898. Image has been cropped and resized.

Acknowledgements: Great thanks to Zero Dean, Sonneta, Jaco Artist, Randy Wagner, Simon de Swardt, and Craig Good whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Many thanks to Nina Gilbert, Jeanne Schramm, and Dan Bye for their insightful discussion of this topic on the Project Wombat mailing list. Special thanks to Dan Bye who accessed “Vincent Van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes”. Bye located the quotation on the front flap. He also examined the rest of the book and found that the quotation was absent from the main text. Additional thanks to Jane Bella who independently searched the database of letters at the Van Gogh Museum website and found no matches.

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