At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh

At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh

by Kathleen Powers Erickson
     
 
Foreword by Martin E. Marty

Genius, vagabond, madman . . . many labels have been applied to Vincent van Gogh. Until now, however, the spiritual dimension of van Gogh’s life and art has been almost completely ignored—to the detriment of a full understanding of the man and the unfolding of his artistic vision.

Based on van Gogh’s personal

Overview

Foreword by Martin E. Marty

Genius, vagabond, madman . . . many labels have been applied to Vincent van Gogh. Until now, however, the spiritual dimension of van Gogh’s life and art has been almost completely ignored—to the detriment of a full understanding of the man and the unfolding of his artistic vision.

Based on van Gogh’s personal correspondence, this biography by Kathleen Powers Erickson traces van Gogh’s pilgrimage of faith, from his early religious training, through his evangelical missionary period, to his struggle with religion and modernity, and finally to the synthesis of the religious and the modern which he achieved in both his life and his art.

Unique to this study is Erickson’s in-depth examination of van Gogh’s mental illness, culminating in her convincing argument that van Gogh’s "insanity," long assumed to be schizophrenia, was in fact a psychological disorder caused by a form of epilepsy. In addition, the volume includes pictures of van Gogh and members of his family and reproductions of important pieces of van Gogh’s artwork—The Pietá, Crows over the Wheatfield, Starry Night, and many more.

Editorial Reviews

Theological Studies
Erickson's principal thesis is that van Gogh was motivated by deeply religious feelings throughout his life, and she demonstrates that he did not abandon his Christian sensibilities when he rejected the institutional church. In the first two chapters, Erickson successfully situates van Gogh in the theological setting of his family and describes his attempts at ministry by abundant reference to his letters as well as theological and historical works. After laying this contextual groundwork, she deals with his break with the institutional church but provides copious evidence in the form of his letters and early art works to demonstrate that he remained a person of religious faith throughout this tumultuous time. The last chapter is a cogent discussion of the effect of van Gogh's faith on his art works, and deals with many of the art works illustrated.
CBA Marketplace
Erickson reveals fascinating details about Vincent van Gogh.... Readers will glean powerful lessons from this intriguing book.
Cresset
Like so many others, Erickson cares passionately about van Gogh, and as a result, what emerges from At Eternity's Gate is a van Gogh who is more akin to us, and for that, even more tragic.
University Bookman
"As Erickson demonstrates, van Gogh's paintings cannot be fully appreciated without recognizing his distinctively Christian oeuvre. His many images of wheatfields, olive trees, reapers, sowers, and sunflowers; his persistent themes of suffering and redemption; his Pietà, Raising of Lazarus, and Good Samaritan—all of this takes on added significance when viewed in light of van Gogh's Christian faith, as Erickson's work allows us to do. This is the achievement of At Eternity's Gate—rather than repackaging van Gogh as a "Christian artist," it deepens our sense of wonder in the presence of his work."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Erickson's account of the spiritual dimensions of van Gogh's work is an important corrective to two widespread assumptions: first, that his background was theologically Calvinist; second, that he abandoned religion when he began his professional career as an artist. Drawing extensively on van Gogh's correspondence, Erickson argues convincingly that the so-called Groningen school--more Arminian than Calvinist--was the foundation for van Gogh's religious outlook and that his abandonment of institutional Christianity (precipitated by disillusionment with his uncle and theological mentor, Johannes Paulus Stricker) was not so much an abandonment of religion as a move to synthesize Christianity and modernity via mysticism. Her discussion of van Gogh's late work is particularly compelling in this regard. Erickson's diagnostic discussion of van Gogh's mental illness is intriguing, though such extended discussion of whether he was epileptic, bipolar, schizophrenic or a combination is more of a distraction than a contribution to artistic or religious appreciation of his work. This work is a lucid and accessible contribution to understanding the religious character of van Gogh's artistic vision. (Aug.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802838568
Publisher:
Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
09/28/1998
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.81(d)
Lexile:
1400L (what's this?)

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