Van Gogh: The Life
  • Van Gogh: The Life
  • Van Gogh: The Life
  • Van Gogh: The Life
  • Van Gogh: The Life
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Van Gogh: The Life

4.1 32
by Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith
     
 

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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, andSee more details below

Overview

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 While drawing liberally from the artist’s famously eloquent letters, they have also delved into hundreds of unpublished family correspondences, illuminating with poignancy the wanderings of Van Gogh’s troubled, restless soul.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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
It's nice that this book was written with the cooperation of the Vincent van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and that the BBC has signed on to do a series on the book's making. It's even more intriguing that revelations about van Gogh's life and death are promised, as are a 32-page color insert and 100 black-and-white illustrations. But what really sells me on this book is that Naifeh (responsible for numerous titles with coauthor and fellow Harvard Law grad Smith) wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jackson Pollock. Expect the energy of The Starry Night; with a seven-city tour
Kirkus Reviews
A gripping and almost certainly definitive account of the all-too-short life of a great artist who believed he was doomed to oblivion. Indeed, few who knew Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) thought he would amount to anything. Fired by religious mania, mental illness and a love-hate relationship with his domineering pastor father, he was a difficult child who became a socially awkward adult. After blowing through a series of failed careers--art dealer, preacher (repeatedly), tutor, bookkeeper--he was well into his 20s before he became an artist. "This painting of yours will be like all the other things you started, it will come to nothing," said one former employer. But for van Gogh, art, not religion, was the transcendence he had been looking for all along, offering "an imagery of reconciliation with which he could re-imagine his own life of failure and remorse." His new calling proved every bit as monkish and self-mortifying as his old one, pushing him to create but failing to reward him, forcing him to rely on money from his beloved brother Theo. A desperate and haunted figure, he faced demons both outer (personal and professional rejection) and inner (paranoia, self-hatred, self-mutilation and a lifelong yearning for death). Van Gogh's life has long been the stuff of tortured-artist drama, but it is hard to imagine it has ever been told better than by Pulitzer winners Naifeh and Smith (Jackson Pollack, 1991, etc.). Their van Gogh is tender, caddish, selfish and sympathetic. The authors occasionally get defensive about their subject, but they offer a credibly argued theory that suggests he died from an accidental shooting, not suicide. Despite its exhaustive length, the book is brilliantly written and engaging, presenting a three-dimensional and larger-than-life portrait of the artist.
Michiko Kakutani
In their magisterial new biography, Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith provide a guided tour through the personal world and the work of that Dutch painter, shining a bright light on the evolution of his art…The overall portrait of van Gogh that emerges from this book will be familiar to readers of earlier biographies…but it is fleshed out with details as myriad as the brushstrokes in one of his late paintings.
—The New York Times
Julia Frey
…reads like a novel, full of suspense and intimate detail…In beautiful prose, Naifeh and Smith argue convincingly for a subtler, more realistic evaluation of Van Gogh…
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
The definitive biography for decades to come.”—Leo Jansen, curator, the Van Gogh Museum, and co-editor of Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Letters

“In their magisterial new biography, Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith provide a guided tour through the personal world and work of that Dutch painter, shining a bright light on the evolution of his art. . . . What [the authors] capture so powerfully is Van Gogh’s extraordinary will to learn, to persevere against the odds.”Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Captivating . . . Winners of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for their biography of Jackson Pollock, [Naifeh and Smith] bring a booming authorial voice and boundless ingenuity to the task and have written a thoroughly engaging account of the Dutch painter. Drawing on Van Gogh’s almost uniquely rich correspondence . . . the authors vividly reconstruct the intertwined stories of his life and his art, portraying him as a ‘victim of his own fanatic heart.’ . . . Their fine book has the potential not only to reinvigorate the broad base of popular interest that Van Gogh already enjoys but to introduce a whole new generation to one of art history’s most remarkable creative spirits.”Jonathan Lopez, The Wall Street Journal

“Could very well be the definitive biography . . . In it we get a much fuller view of Van Gogh, owing to the decade Naifeh and Smith spent on research to create this scholarly and spellbinding work. . . . How pleased we should be that [these authors] have rendered so exquisitely and respectfully Van Gogh’s short, intense, and wholly interesting life.”—Roberta Silman, The Boston Globe
 
“This generation’s definitive portrait of the great Dutch post-Impressionist . . . [The authors’] most important achievement is to produce a reckoning with Van Gogh’s occasional ‘madness’ that doesn’t lose sight of the lucidity and intelligence—the profound sanity—of his art.”—Richard Lacayo, Time
 
Brilliant . . . Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith are the big-game hunters of modern art history. . . . [Van Gogh] rushes along on a tide of research. . . . At once a model of scholarship and an emotive, pacy chunk of hagiography.”—Martin Herbert, The Daily Telegraph (London)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375507489
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/18/2011
Pages:
976
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.90(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
The definitive biography for decades to come.”—Leo Jansen, curator, the Van Gogh Museum, and co-editor of Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Letters

“In their magisterial new biography, Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith provide a guided tour through the personal world and work of that Dutch painter, shining a bright light on the evolution of his art. . . . What [the authors] capture so powerfully is Van Gogh’s extraordinary will to learn, to persevere against the odds.”Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Captivating . . . Winners of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for their biography of Jackson Pollock, [Naifeh and Smith] bring a booming authorial voice and boundless ingenuity to the task and have written a thoroughly engaging account of the Dutch painter. Drawing on Van Gogh’s almost uniquely rich correspondence . . . the authors vividly reconstruct the intertwined stories of his life and his art, portraying him as a ‘victim of his own fanatic heart.’ . . . Their fine book has the potential not only to reinvigorate the broad base of popular interest that Van Gogh already enjoys but to introduce a whole new generation to one of art history’s most remarkable creative spirits.”Jonathan Lopez, The Wall Street Journal

“Could very well be the definitive biography . . . In it we get a much fuller view of Van Gogh, owing to the decade Naifeh and Smith spent on research to create this scholarly and spellbinding work. . . . How pleased we should be that [these authors] have rendered so exquisitely and respectfully Van Gogh’s short, intense, and wholly interesting life.”—Roberta Silman, The Boston Globe
 
“This generation’s definitive portrait of the great Dutch post-Impressionist . . . [The authors’] most important achievement is to produce a reckoning with Van Gogh’s occasional ‘madness’ that doesn’t lose sight of the lucidity and intelligence—the profound sanity—of his art.”—Richard Lacayo, Time
 
Brilliant . . . Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith are the big-game hunters of modern art history. . . . [Van Gogh] rushes along on a tide of research. . . . At once a model of scholarship and an emotive, pacy chunk of hagiography.”—Martin Herbert, The Daily Telegraph (London)

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