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, who galvanized readers with their Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Jackson Pollock, have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable portrait of Vincent van Gogh. Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of

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Overview

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, who galvanized readers with their Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Jackson Pollock, have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable portrait of 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 to 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; and his move to Provence, where 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 erratic and tumultuous romantic life; his bouts of depression and mental illness; and the cloudy circumstances surrounding his death at the age of thirty-seven.
 
Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, 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.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Praise for Van Gogh: The Life
 
“Magisterial.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“This generation’s definitive portrait of the great Dutch post-Impressionist.”—Time
 
“A tour de force . . . an enormous achievement . . . Reading his life story is like riding an endless roller coaster of delusional highs and lows. . . . [A] sweepingly authoritative, astonishingly textured book.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Marvelous . . . [Van Gogh] 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, and we all win.”—The Washington Post
 
“Brilliant . . . At once a model of scholarship and an emotive, pacy chunk of hagiography.”—The Daily Telegraph (London)
 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST • THE WALL STREET JOURNAL • SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE • NPR • THE ECONOMIST • NEWSDAY • BOOKREPORTER

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Editorial Reviews

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
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
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)

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780594504221
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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