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Van Gogh: The Lifeby Steven Naifeh
Synopses & Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith galvanized readers with their astonishing Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, a book acclaimed for its miraculous research and overwhelming narrative power. Now Naifeh and Smith have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable, and ultimately heartbreaking portrait of creative genius Vincent van Gogh.
Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of previously untapped materials. While drawing liberally from the artist’s famously eloquent letters, they have also delved into hundreds of unpublished family correspondences, illuminating with poignancy the wanderings of Van Gogh’s troubled, restless soul. Naifeh and Smith bring a crucial understanding to the larger-than-life mythology of this great artist—his early struggles to find his place in the world; his intense relationship with his brother Theo; his impetus for turning to brush and canvas; and his move to Provence, where in a brief burst of incandescent productivity he painted some of the best-loved works in Western art.
The authors also shed new light on many unexplored aspects of Van Gogh’s inner world: his deep immersion in literature and art; his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; and his bouts of depression and mental illness.
Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, and though the broad outlines of his tragedy have long inhabited popular culture, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius whose signature images of sunflowers and starry nights have won a permanent place in the human imagination.
andquot;I believe in the absolute necessity of a new art of colour, of drawing andandmdash;of the artistic life,andquot; Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1888. andquot;And if we work in that faith, it seems to me that thereand#39;s a chance that our hopes wonand#39;t be in vain.andquot; His prediction would come true. In his brief and explosively creative lifeandmdash;he committed suicide a few years later at the age of thirty-sevenandmdash;Van Gogh made us see the world in a new way. His shining landscapes of Provence and somber portraits of workers shattered the relationship between light and dark, and his hallucinatory visions were so bright they nearly blinded the world.
He was a great writer as well. In his six hundredandndash;plus letters to Theo he chronicled with heartbreaking urgency his mental breakdowns, acrimonious family relations, and struggles with art dealers, who largely ignored him until the last years of his life. Shading this dark story is the artistandrsquo;s acquaintance with prostitutes and penury, stormy scenes with his friend Paul Gauguin, and dissipated Parisian nights with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Julian Bellandrsquo;s passion for his subject brings the painter to life. Bell writes with slashing intensity, at once scholarly and defiantly partisan. andldquo;I have written this book out of my love for Vincent van Gogh, the uniquely exciting painter, and Vincent van Gogh, the letter writer of heart-piercing eloquence,andrdquo; he declares. For Bell, Van Gogh was an artistic genius and more: he was a wonder of the world.
This graphic biography documents the brief and intense period of creativity Vincent van Gogh (1853andndash;1890) spent in Arles, Provence, in southern France. Here van Gogh dreams of setting up an artistsandrsquo; studioandmdash;a haven where he and his friends can paint together. But attacks of mental illness leave the painter confused and disoriented. When his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin refuses to reside permanently at the Yellow House, a distraught van Gogh cuts off part of his own ear. Throughout this period of intense emotion and hardship, Vincentandrsquo;s brother Theo stands by him, offering constant and unconditional support. Writer and illustrator Barbara Stok breathes riveting new life into a fascinating episode of art history, creating a vivid portrait of one of the worldandrsquo;s most beloved and legendary artists.
Praise for Vincent:
andquot;Stylistically, Stok is almost faultless... [Vincent] leaves us aware of a small breath of fresh air blown into the world of art historyandquot;and#160;The Times Literary Supplement
andquot;Stok does a brilliant, sympathetic job of picturing the artist, whether jagged with madness or sitting amid the wheat fields and sunflowers of Arlesandquot;and#160;The Guardian
About the Author
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith are graduates of Harvard Law School. Mr. Naifeh, who has written for art periodicals and has lectured at numerous museums including the National Gallery of Art, studied art history at Princeton and did his graduate work at the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. Together they have written many books on art and other subjects, including four New York Times bestsellers. Their biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It also inspired the Academy Award–winning 2000 film Pollock starring Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden as well as John Updike’s novel, Seek My Face. Naifeh and Smith have been profiled in The New Yorker, The New York Times, USA Today, and People, and have appeared on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Charlie Rose, and the Today show.
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