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Vincent van Gogh's original notion had been to escape the grey light and discouragement of northern Europe by setting up what would now be called an artists' collective at Arles. He, Paul Gauguin and possibly others would share the expenses of a retreat amid the sunshine and scenery of Provence at which to work together, and to inspire and learn from one another. Vincent would in addition benefit from what he most lacked and felt the need of: affirmation by friends and colleagues he could trust to appreciate his work. Despite Gauguin's initial doubts, at first he and Vincent did find inspiration, not so much from one another as from the scenery and their uncritical local companions. As Winter began to enclose them in the cramped, cold, gas-lit house, Vincent however soon discovered not only the personal and philosophical differences between them. The oppressive fact was that Gauguin's new work rapidly gained him a reputation and a regular income, while Vincent remained unrecognised and dependent on his brother's generosity. This contrast hastened the deepening of Vincent's mental illness, causing Gauguin not only to tire of his intolerable neediness, but also to doubt that in Vincent's company he was even safe to sleep. What finally propelled Vincent to his absurd act of self-martyrdom was Gauguin's announcement that he could tolerate staying no longer. Why Vincent presented the remains of his ear at the local bordello is a question without an answer. Gayford's book is all the better for not speculating on that. His diagnosis that Vincent suffered from an extreme form of bipolar disorder is convincing.
For anyone who wants to look beyond the sensationalism regarding Van Gogh's life and his time in Arles, this is an invaluable resource. The life shared by him and Gauguin at the Yellow House (men at the same time so similar in some ways but wildly different in others), is depicted extremely well in this book, with empathy and a clear adherence to the facts rather then getting lost in theories and "what if's". I have gained a greater understanding of both artists, that has inspired me to want to learn even more about them.
Only being familiar with a few of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings, I found this account of his time in the Yellow House of Arles quite disturbing. Does such beauty require such suffering? Whatever the answer, this book was for me a "page turner".
Others have mentioned typos - I never encountered any, but then my own spelling has always been wanting. Again, if French place names or artists names are misspelled I would not know.
One star deducted simply because of the dire illustrations of this Kindle edition - small, black and white and lacking in sharpness. Very poor, given how much better the book would be had they been in colour. Delphi are able to produce ALL of Van Gogh's output for £1.99, in full HD colour!
But the text was good. A tragic story, but it read well.
An intriguing close-up view of two tricky personalities, written in straightforward language. Devoted to different kinds of creativity, each artist tended to confuse some aspects of his own achievement with the other's. They were also rivals in the art market, and for the sympathies of Vincent's brother. Much obscurity still surrounds the self-destructiveness which emerged between them, but I had not realised until reading this that detailed publicity about the Ripper's killing of Catherine Meadows in Whitechapel in 1888 may have influenced van Gogh's cutting off his ear. Very Interesting, and easy to read.
I bought this book a few years ago and have read more than once. I can highly recommend it for people like myself who love Van Gogh but unfortunately don't have the time to read a full biography on his life. I've always loved the work that Van Gogh produced during his time in Arles and was interested in his relationship with Gauguin. The book was very easy to read and I really enjoyed reading it.
My wife and I visited Arles at the beginning of June (about 7 weeks ago) and it was wonderful to walk around the town visiting the Van Gogh sites, the cafes, the bridges, the hospital and the site of the yellow house, which was bombed during the second world war. At these sites there are sign boards with representations of the paintings that were done there. This whetted my appetite to read about Van Gogh and Gaugin's stay in the yellow house. The book is wonderfully evocative of the time and the artists. Because we were there I can picture the places and events in my mind but I believe that if I had read the book first I may have noticed even more during my visit. So glad I bought the book.