View all 7 comments. A very comprehensive biography of an intense and passionate man that provides a deep insight into his mind and creative process. A thoroughly researched portrait of Vincent's tragic life. Vincent initially comes off as an arrogant and self-destructive man. But he was as much a victim of the society that rejected him for being different. Vincent would start his career as an art dealer. But he was neither smooth talking nor good with people, which would mean an end to his career as an art dealer.
Faced with his failure and rejection from his family, he would try to find solace in religion. But his later foray into a career as a missionary would also end in a similar failure. The intensity and passion that he brought to his attempted career as a missionary or a preacher, and his constant search for meaning would alienate most of his peers. Faced with his failure in all his career endeavors, and having been rejected and shunned by family and friends and women, his life would soon spiral downward into intense melancholy and guilt that would mark his painting career.
Throughout his artistic career, he would search for solace and meaning, often keeping emotional crisis and complete breakdown at bay by his furious dedication to his work and delusions of future success. It is remarkable the amount of intensity with which he worked despite being rejected and ridiculed at every step. His art was his solace and his mode of expression. He puoured his emotional and spiritual feelings into his work. He may not have been a good draftsman but his passion and intensity speaks through his colours.
The authors here also make a good case that the gunshot wound that killed Vincent might infact have been an accident, a result of an altercation rather than suicide. A remarkable and heartbreaking biography. View 2 comments. He is such a legendary figure but the real story, meticulously researched and written here, is absolutely tragic. He was a social outcast, had zero employability, and depended on his brother Theo in every aspect of life especially financially.
Vincent tried. He tried to please his family, he tried to get a job to support himself, he tried to make beautiful art, he tried to find a wife, he always tried. While Vincent was certainly depressed, the authors argue that he never truly was suicidal and his death occurred because he merely welcomed it as it happened and told authorities he shot himself in order to protect the boy.
Thames & Hudson USA - Book - Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe
Steven Haifeh and Gregory White Smith. The authors have pieced together his life using all of the extant letters available to them; letters to his brother Theo, to his mother, to his sister, to his various artist friends, and theirs back to him. This life will certainly be the gold standard for many years to come, and the standard work for both students and scholars. He was obviously suffering from some form of mental health problems from the time he was growing up.
His environment as a youth was not the greatest, and he had strict rules to live by, being the son of a clergyman. He had few friends throughout his life; his closest friend was his brother Theo, and with him he argued back and forth for years, even though Theo was responsible for keeping him alive by providing money for him to live while he was finding himself.
Highly recommended. It's no wonder to me now that these truly gifted biographers won the Pulitzer Prize for their life of Jackson Pollock, assuming, of course, that their prose is as "intense" as the writing in their most recent collaboration. After pages, I haven't detected a sentence or a paragraph that fails to extend their narrative of Van Gogh's life all pages of it, less the pages of documentation that resides on-line or enrich their characterization of this terribly difficult man, whose shiftin It's no wonder to me now that these truly gifted biographers won the Pulitzer Prize for their life of Jackson Pollock, assuming, of course, that their prose is as "intense" as the writing in their most recent collaboration.
After pages, I haven't detected a sentence or a paragraph that fails to extend their narrative of Van Gogh's life all pages of it, less the pages of documentation that resides on-line or enrich their characterization of this terribly difficult man, whose shifting realities, imperturable sense of entitlement and nearly intolerable temperament, alienated nearly everyone he ever engaged - even the most sympathetic.
I find their subject entirely fascinating, their treatment masterful, and their writing a model of splendid exposition. After pages, I find that their prose is as engaging - and as truly awe-inspiritng - as ever. I must also say that I find their meticulous and thorough descriptions of every repetition of Van Gogh's cycles of highly disturbed behavior, which destroyed every relationship he ever formed, a bit tiring.
I understand that the authors aimed to document every moment of their subject's life, every hostile encounter of which there is even the least little scrap of evidence, and I applaud their epic industry. But I am beginning to skim the pages that present another instance of more of the same. Their book is as good a biography as can be written I suppose, and in some ways it rivals Kershaw's "Hitler.
I just finished this biography, and I can only give it a five-star rating. It is truly one of the most successful examples of the biographer's craft that I have encountered in my fifty years' devotion to that genre. I suspect that the authors will win another Pulitzer, perhaps a National Book Award, among many others, for their achievement. Nonetheless,in cases of products of such superlative craftsmanship as "Van Gogh: A Life" I often wonder if, for the sake of yet another perfect sentence or a brilliantly constructed paragraph, authors of non-fiction ignore or modify certain inconvenient facts.
I still wonder about this particular life of Van Gogh, despite the excerpts of letters and memoirs that the authors aduce in every segment of their book, and despite the pages of further documentation that they provide on their website, www.
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE OF THE LORDS PHYSICAL TRINITY AND THE DELEGATED MARRIAGE AUTHORITY IN THE HOLY BIBLE.
- True Love At Last for Women Over 40: Answers You Need for the Relationship You Want!.
- 29 Best Van Gogh Books images in | Van gogh art, Art books for kids, Art for kids.
- Therapy Dogs in Cancer Care: A Valuable Complementary Treatment.
- Vincent van Gogh.
I suppose I could allay my nagging concerns by tracking down the relevant footnotes, examining sources and evaluating corresponding sections of their biography. But I certainly don't intend to spend time in that way. And besides the world is full of art historians and subject matter experts SME , who, no doubt, are probing, even as I write, every statement and conclusion that the authors committed to paper. If there's an unsupported claim in any of the book's pages, these SMEs will certainly draw the world's attention to it.
This biography was certainly a massive undertaking by award-winning authors. It's well-researched and well-written all right. But the underlying view of Vincent as a man with basically a horrible personality who created his own problems seems short-sighted and unfair.
Are the authors re-doing the Jackson Pollack book? This book made me go back to read Vincent's incomparable letters to Theo. These authors don't care; to them he was a spoiled! View all 3 comments. So much information in this spectacular and in-depth bio on Van Gogh arbitrary and turbulent life. And with that so much despair and sadness. Van Gogh lived a life with many obstacles.
His struggle with mental illness and depression. The demons that refused to leave his head. His rejection from family , lovers and other artist. But despite all of this he had a mutual love and admiration for his brother Theo. Theo was his "saving grace" in many ways. Without doubt Van Gogh was a artistic genius. And attached to this gift was that of a man who had limited social skills. I personally think he was misunderstood because of his erratic and stand off personality. Perhaps Van Gogh suffered from several Personalty Disorders?
This book is filled with pictures of some of his greatest work.
Each painting is a book. Each painting tells a story without a single word being written. That is the brilliancy and uniqueness than Van Gogh held. He was a painter and a writer The only difference was he used a canvas to express his words. Much of his inspiration came from his love of reading. His mind would go off into another dimension. Creating work and techniques that helped him in his creative journey. Sadly Van Gogh life ended tragically and short. His manner of death still unclear , with many new theories being uncovered. And with much controversy Naifeh and Smith open a panoramic view of a monumental life.
The writing is captivating and capture the true essence of a masterpiece.
Van Gogh words still haunt me to this day. This is a massive and wonderful book about an amazing person. I've read several books about Vincent, both fiction and non-fiction and I thought I knew a lot about Vincent's life, but Naifeh and Smith provide a lot more information than any of the others I've read and do it well. Having recently read Carol Wallace's Leaving Van Gogh with Goodread's Art Lovers group, I must say that I think her book should be banned for using real people in a fiction that is so far from the known facts.
Naifeh and This is a massive and wonderful book about an amazing person. Naifeh and White make a thoroughly convincing case for Vincent's illness having been temporal lobe epilepsy. In fact, that was the diagnosis at the hospital in Arles where he was first treated for his mental illness after he mutilated his ear. Why so many other theories about his illness clouded the issue is unclear to me, when the original diagnosis and all his symptoms pointed directly to temporal lobe epilepsy.
ISBN 13: 9781408304655
And finally, the short discussion about Vincent's death and why the authors do not believe it was a suicide, is also totally convincing. Reading their assertions and the reasons for them both pertaining to the diagnosis of his illness and the cause of his death leaves no room for any other theory, as far as I'm concerned. If for no other reason, the fact that all the painting gear that he had taken with him that day as well as the revolver that he was shot with were never found would point to it NOT being a suicide.
Poor wonderful, talented, brilliant Vincent. This is an essential book for anyone who is truly interested in Vincent van Gogh. View 1 comment. This is a compelling, tragic biography of the great 19th century Dutch artist whose life was deeply troubled, despite his creative gifts and intellectual power.
It is to the writers' deep credit that despite the unbending pattern of extreme behavior and inevitable disappointment and failure that dominates the life recounted here over pages, the telling firmly holds your attention. Vincent was the eldest of six children. His father was a Protestant minister who served in a backwater parish, su This is a compelling, tragic biography of the great 19th century Dutch artist whose life was deeply troubled, despite his creative gifts and intellectual power.
His father was a Protestant minister who served in a backwater parish, surrounded largely by Catholic families. He was not a success but was a dominating figure in his parish and in his homestead. His wife was staunchly religious, too. So was the family and Vincent not the least among them. But as with everything, all his interests and passions, Vincent is not conventionally religious. He is impulsive, fanatical in his pursuits searching for birds nests, walking, literature, art and faith. He will walk miles and miles at a time, regardless of weather.
He will sketch through the night and into the morning. He will copy poems, sermons, and prose with obsessive zeal, filling notebooks and letters with his copying. He was impatient, moody, explosive of temper. Van Gogh had a lifelong nostalgia for a moment of imagined happiness in home and hearth and spent the twenty years between his teens and death at 37 working to recreate that moment—to restore his family in reality or by proxy with adopted families, to form a nuclear family of sorts with his brother Theo, to create a commune of like-minded artists. Based in fantasy and undermined by his oppressive intensity, failure was inevitable and often.
His passion and compulsive curiosity opened the window of brief success before his personality slammed it shut. The family demonstrated patience but soon, like a corrupt priest, he was shifted from office to office within the international company, trying to find a spot where he could do little or no damage to business and colleagues. In England he got involved with evangelical sects and for a few years pursued a self-constructed religious study hoping to become a minister or missionary.
He betook himself to a bleak coal mining region to serve but his refusal to see barriers, personal or otherwise, went beyond off-putting, created resentment and provoked ridicule. The propensity to attract public ridicule in response to his appearance and behavior would shadow the remainder of his days. In his twenties he returned to art, but not as a seller, as a creator. His mother had taught him to draw and he took it up with the same tireless drive that he did everything else. What was a hobby, illustrating letters with drawings of places he had visited or lived, became his calling.
The imaginative talent was there, and there in spades. Art would rescue a tragic life that might well have been an anonymous, meaningless nightmare. His brother Theo had followed him into the family business but had done so successfully. The two would have a fraught relationship, intensely close even when at a distance. Briefly they lived together in Paris for some months, an event that nearly killed the younger but frailer Theo. In the end, the brothers died a year apart; Vincent violently, perhaps self-inflicted, perhaps in an accidental shooting by local youths, Theo from disease and madness.
Through connections with Theo and his uncle, Vincent got access to the world of Dutch and French artists, and to the very limited amount of formal training he would get. The book is well-illustrated though you want more and the descriptions of the work are masterful. Van Gogh The Life is a fantastic accomplishment but, because of the tragedy, a challenging read. Meticulously researched, from his birth, childhood, and adult life, and yet written in a very readable style that doesn't bog you down as many biographies can do, this is truly an amazing book.
I've always love his paintings, but I know now that if I had ever met him I would have punched him in the nose at the very least. He was a very unpleasent man, outspoken and arguementative, with bizarre behavior, delusions and totally unable to deal with life in any normal way. I think being raised in a rigid christion home-his father was a pastor and his mother was more concerned with family appearances and reputation than the emotional needs of a very delicate son-was just more fuel for his breakdown. I really enjoyed this book, but it takes some time to get through it.
I've read a good amount of books regarding van Gogh, including a condensed book of his prolific correspondence, and a few regarding his time in Arles with and without Gauguin. I was somewhat disappointed with this book. I felt the viewpoint was slanted and biased to a negative perspective regarding a complicated man. Van Gogh was flawed, like any other man; he was a man misunderstood in his time.
I suppose you could read any number of his letters and decide he was "delusional" or "ungrateful" an I've read a good amount of books regarding van Gogh, including a condensed book of his prolific correspondence, and a few regarding his time in Arles with and without Gauguin. I suppose you could read any number of his letters and decide he was "delusional" or "ungrateful" and "unappreciative" with what he was given in life. At the same time, you would see a man who perceived the world beyond what most men of his time saw.
An art that was both charged with emotional perspective and limitless in its communication. Full of color; full of life; full of expressing what's inside of us through the mundane and simple objects of our world. I choose to think that Vincent was a genius as an artist.
Reading van Gogh
I am always inspired by his interpretation of the world and the art he created and I truly believe that had he been creating his masterpieces 30 years later he would have been seen in a truly different light by many of his peers. How many other artists can we say were so driven?
Unfortunately the almost pages of this book were mostly negative and painted Vincent in a pitiful light and without much respect for the difficulties he managed to overcome in his life. I also found the research regarding the other artists discussed in the book, i. Gauguin and Bernard was not very complete. With plus pages, it requires a real commitment of time and energy. This is a book that can leave you feeling exhausted, wishing many times that it would soon be over and then just as soon as you finish, thinking you should begin it all again to gather all the keen insights you "Vincent was 'a dreamer, a fanatical believer, a devourer of beautiful utopias, living on ideas and dreams.
This is a book that can leave you feeling exhausted, wishing many times that it would soon be over and then just as soon as you finish, thinking you should begin it all again to gather all the keen insights you missed the first time around. The book itself took 10 years to write, note the authors, and it shows. Once done, any reader would feel like he or she has gained some real insight into the life and struggles of Van Gogh, as well as a better understanding of the challenges he faced.
Among those were an extremely sensitive nature, guilt over the inability to support himself, an extreme passion for his work, an inability to separate out his thoughts inner world from reality, and nonconvulsive or latent epilepsy. To have succeeded in producing such beautiful artwork, given those conditions, is pretty amazing.
In fact, it's likely that art saved Van Gogh, despite his short life. The book is probably most known for, and most controversial regarding, its theory behind how Van Gogh died. The authors suggest, and provide plenty of evidence for, the theory that Vincent was accidentally shot and did not commit suicide. There's also some interesting information on the incident in which he attempted to cut off his ear and sent it to a brothel. The authors also provide a lot of insight into Van Gogh's paintings.
Although there are many examples, both color and black and white within the book, most readers will find themselves turning again and again to their art books or the Internet to seek out images of his paintings not shown. For academics, and others who would like to explore certain nuances, there is also a website VanGoghBiography.
Most of all, what should be said about this book is that it will give any reader a new level of understanding, sympathy, and appreciation for Van Gogh's work and life. Looking at his paintings will never be the same again after having read this book. The writers had a wealth of materials to draw from for this comprehensive biography, including the years of correspondence between Vincent and his brother Theo and numerous interviews with people who were knew or were aware of Vincent.
This book is a commitment at pages and it took me a couple of weeks of careful reading to finish it. For the first three quarters of this book I was somewhat taken aback by my conflicted feelings for the artist as he grew up dealing with physical and psychological issues. At first his whole family did try to help him find his way, but his difficulties were daunting and for most of his adult life his brother Theo supported him for every expense. Vincent only sold one painting during his lifetime and that was near the end of it.
From the testimony of people who knew Vincent or tried to know him I became sympathetic to their rejection. By the last years of his life as he furiously tried to bring his many ideas to life on canvas I again saw the genius, the pathos and felt a new appreciation for his art. I also hoped I learned a lesson about judging anyone by the face they show to the world, not knowing of their struggles and the inner beauty we all have. The authors have a theory about his death that has proved controversial. After reading what they said and other viewpoints on his death, I am inclined to agree with them.
Although Vincent claimed to have said he shot himself, the description of the bullet wound does not support a self-inflicted wound. Doctors then and now agree on that. I agree with the authors that it may have been the result of an accidental shooting and because Vincent had struggled so much he accepted his pending death without a fight. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in the man who produced such beautiful art.
I was impressed with the voluminous correspondence between Van Gogh and his family in general and his brother, Theo,in particular. Because I am a nature lover and hiker, Van Gogh's love of nature and devotion to taking his easal into the heath attracted me to his paintings and I have since been studying and enjoying them. In addition, while many artists did th Van Gogh: The Life by Stephen Naifeh and Grogory White Smith was well written and moved along quite rapidly for such an exhaustive study.
In addition, while many artists did their works in studio with the help of assistnts, Vincent went out- of- doors alone to capture the reality of nature and used real live models of poor people to capture their essence. Finally, it is fascinating how much of his tortured life was put into his paintings of th very poor. There was nothing phony about his works and he paid the price for his great contributions to all of us.
If you want to know what true scholarship looks like, read this book and follow the citations. These authors have written the definitive biography of Van Gogh, and oh is it fantastic! Loved it. Sep 03, R. This book was so long I decided to stop and write a review before I finished reading it. Having said that, this biography is a very intricate, highly detailed account of Van Gogh's life. I almost felt that I had reached the end of it only to realize I was still on the th something page.
This is not to say it was boring- was actually quite interesting. And I say that because I couldn't help but try to analyze some of what was going on in his head. Like at some point I thought Vincent must have This book was so long I decided to stop and write a review before I finished reading it. Like at some point I thought Vincent must have been an introvert, and that struck home. I even looked up his birthday shockingly March , but to say the least he must have had a very complex mind.
The kind that overthinks situations. But if there is anything that I have taken from this book, it is what not to do in life. Vincent always punished himself for mistakes he had done in his adulthood. Only he went to extreme measures in his punishments. He sometimes walked days without any shoes, fasted endlessly and almost at the end of his life, cut off his ear. Mar 09, Brian Bess rated it it was amazing. Even at that, Naifeh and Smith have provided very detailed descriptions of most of the major works and quote extensively from the voluminous correspondence Van Gogh left behind, often expressing himself with great eloquence.
The fact of the matter with Van Gogh is that the deck seemed to be stacked against him from the beginning, given his family environment and background. Dorus and Anna Van Gogh had already produced one child named Vincent exactly a year before our Vincent was born. That child died in infancy and the parents hastily set about replacing him. The rowdy, restless, and argumentative temperament of the child stayed with Vincent into adulthood.
Exasperated from dealing with such a troublesome child, the parents sent him away to a school several miles away from his family when he was still a child, leaving him to fight with school mates and schoolmasters, setting the tone for all the false starts that just accelerated into adulthood, creating embarrassment for his status-conscious parents and costing them enormous amounts of money over the years. With his pastor father and his prosperous art dealer uncle, also named Vincent, or Cent, as he was called, he had two career paths laid out ahead of him to emulate.
As a young missionary, Vincent preached tedious, long-winded, rambling sermons that went off track and left congregations bored, confused, and frustrated. Driving customers away was the quickest way to exasperate his uncle and get placed on probation, ultimately ending with a humiliating dismissal. In the middle of his erratic mood swings and obsessions which sound to me like textbook case bipolar depression, Vincent read voraciously he could read in four languages: Dutch, German, French, and English , devouring the works of Dickens, Eliot, Balzac, and Zola, along with the complete Shakespeare and the Bible and contemporary philosophers.
He was well versed in art history and its significant movements, past and present. He squeezed it from the tube and then worked it with a brush, eschewing glazes and mixing colors directly on the surface, as if afraid of too much deliberation. In the century after his death, many doctors have diagnosed him with temporal lobe epilepsy, which differs from the more commonly known form of epilepsy, with its symptoms of petit and grand mal seizures. He felt he lacked the skill to portray such an important figure on paint so he focused on the sky above the garden.
When Vincent learned of this praise, he could not deal with it, preferring to deflect the praise onto his other contemporaries. The authors present an extremely convincing case for the theory that Vincent did not fire the shot that killed him. Although he was devastated and consumed with guilt at the realization of all the emotional and financial hardship he had inflicted on his brother and his wish to no longer be a burden to Theo or anyone else, he avoided guns and would have preferred poison as a method of suicide.
Rene and his friends would mercilessly tease the peculiar Vincent regularly and the gun misfire was probably a joke that got tragically out of hand. Since the method of his demise had come to him from outside himself, relieving him of the decision to end his life, he embraced his death and wanted to make sure that no one else was responsible for it. Naifeh and Smith, in addition to creating the most comprehensive, masterful biography one could wish for on Vincent Van Gogh, have also written a very eloquent, eminently readable and novelistic biography. Average and even good biographies usually present the relevant facts and throw in a bit of analysis.
I have never read a more thorough biography of any person in my life, even those written about peoples still living or where primary evidence is easily available to the biographer. This is so incredibly detailed and researched, the wealth of work gone in to such a comprehensive account is plain, yet is not swathed so heavily in academia that would make it impossible to read for anyone without a degree in art history if I'm confusing, which I might be because I was compelled to finish this and it I have never read a more thorough biography of any person in my life, even those written about peoples still living or where primary evidence is easily available to the biographer.
Niafeh and White-Smith do both - candidly presenting a man that swung, appropriately for the assumed bipolar diagnosis, from manic tempers, obstinacy, and almost selfish obsession, to sensitivity, depth, and generosity. There's no hiding that Vincent could be unpleasant can't we all Wonderfully, at least to history nerd me, puts Vincent's life in context, and expands on details - such as a hospital treatment for VD - that Vincent either omitted or hid in euphemism in his letters for propriety, or disregarded details as they were common knowledge, or at least shared with the recipient, that at the time a detailed description would have been pointless.
Although that aforementioned example will make you wince a bit. However, it's the last pages that are the proverbial smoking gun. Pun wholly intended for those who've read it. A wholly credible theory that I cannot understand why it has not been more widely accepted, in the suggested martyrdom it even maintains the dramatic end to Vincent's story that Irving Stone nailed in to place almost 80 years ago. I promise you, that alone qualifies why the NYT called this book 'magisterial'. That said, I would be curious to see an appendix addressing Bernadette Murphy's recent discovery concerning Vincent's ear and her theories of his time in Arles.
And apparently Theo isn't as bad as I've previously believed Sorry Theo. Van Gogh was a complicated, demanding, and offensive individual, and Naifeh and Gregory White Smith do not shy away from this. Unlike many popular portrayals of the great artist, here we meet a man less misunderstood by his family and more alienated by his own difficult behavior.
Sympathy runs both ways - for Vincent who is unable and unwilling to behave in a manner which would allow the closeness he desperately sought with others, and for his family, especially his brother Theo, who were emotio Van Gogh was a complicated, demanding, and offensive individual, and Naifeh and Gregory White Smith do not shy away from this. Sympathy runs both ways - for Vincent who is unable and unwilling to behave in a manner which would allow the closeness he desperately sought with others, and for his family, especially his brother Theo, who were emotionally and financially drained by the demands of an adult son who would not support himself and left a trail of broken relationships behind him.
It is this conflict which dominated Van Gogh's life - his desire for close familial bonds with either his own family or one he invented, a dream made impossible by his own obsessive and overbearing nature - and much of the narrative is devoted to the way this cycle repeated itself throughout his life. Artistically, it was interesting that the painter considered a master of color and landscape so long resisted either. Despite pleas from his brother, he insisted upon drawing pen and ink portraits for years, despite his lack of skill in this area.
He was drawn to what eluded him, both in life in art. Vincent's mental illness, compounded by syphilis and alcohol, is explored as it was revealed at the time. When he was not painting, he was often writing or reading. In these volumes, every book, magazine, and newspaper article van Gogh mentions has been tracked down and noted.
The artist was a lonely individual for most of his adult life. But the general lack of conversation partners meant that a rich part of his internal life poured out onto paper. Whether one prefers that tone is a matter of taste, but this is truer to his actual words in Dutch and in French—the language he wrote in almost exclusively after his move to Paris, in All Rights Reserved. Patent and Trademark Office. Reading van Gogh. Show All. Books January Recommended Articles. Issues Go to Issue