Vincent van Gogh: The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition

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Overview

A six-volume, slipcased set and a major publishing event: Van Gogh’s letters in their unexpurgated form, newly translated, with explanatory notes, and featuring more than 2,000 works of art to which the artist refers in his letters.
Vincent van Gogh’s letters have long been prized as some of the most valuable documents in the world of art. Not only do they throw light on Van Gogh’s own complex and intriguing character, they enlighten the whole creative process.
This edition is an immense treasure trove of biographical and art-historical information. The culmination of fifteen years of new research and superseding all previous editions in its ambition and up-to-date scholarship, it provides a lasting pleasure as a personal testimony to a life consecrated to art.Over 4,300 illustrationsNew transcriptions of every known letter to or from Van GoghThe complete collection: this edition includes all the letters, both in the Van Gogh Museum and those in other museums, archives and private collectionsNew translations render Van Gogh’s words more closely than ever before – unadorned, unimproved, faithful and accurateVan Gogh's sketches, made throughout the letters, are reproduced here at full sizeNew material: previously unknown letters and fragments of letters are published in English here for the first timeNew scholarship: fifteen years of new research have added to scholars’ understanding of Van Gogh’s life and work. Extensive research has been carried out to identify every work of art mentioned, whether produced by Van Gogh or by other artists.Authoritative editing: many omissions and misreadings in previous editions have now been corrected. For the first time the letters are fully annotated.Supplementary texts add information about Van Gogh’s life, his family, his correspondents, his characteristics as a letter-writer and the context in which the letters were written. Also includes a comprehensive list of materials discussed in the letters, a chronology of his life and a full indexExemplary design: the typography and design is by Wim Crouwel, one of Holland’s most accomplished book designers of the last fifty years
This is the most complete edition of Van Gogh'e letters ever produced, illustrated extensively throughout, and drawing on fifteen years of scholarship and dedicated research. For the first time, all the works to which Van Gogh refers are shown alongside the letters—not only the paintings and drawings that he himself was working on at the time, but also the works of art by others that he mentions.
In over 900 letters we see Van Gogh’s thoughts and opinions at first hand, as well as his close ties with his brother Theo, his sometimes troubled relationships with friends and fellow artists, his personal doubts and fears, and above all his overriding passion for his art.

Includes a CD with complete text versions in French and Dutch

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Editorial Reviews

Financial Times
“The most important art publication of 2009, if not of the decade.”
The Economist
“Has a depth that would not exist were this a collection of only images or only words. This could be the best autobiography of an artist yet to appear anywhere.”
Sunday Telegraph [UK]
“A massive work of scholarship as well as a visual delight.”
New Yorker
“Twenty years worth of his letters, published in a spectacular illustrated six-volume edition are the longest, warmest, most attentive account of an artist’s life seen from the inside that has ever been.”
The Sunday Times [London]
“The greatest cache of writing about art left behind by any artist. Intense, relentless, gossipy, utterly fascinating.”
The Independent [UK]
“With his words and visions united in all their blazing intensity, this momentous edition at last completes the palette of Vincent's double art.”
Modern Painters
“It is certainly one of the best art books I’ve ever read and the only one I would truly say today, at this moment, is truly indispensable”
ARTnews
“With the publication of this monumental six-volume edition of his letters, Vincent van Gogh is fully revealed as a supreme writer-painter…. This collection is definitive.”
The Wall Street Journal
“A richly annotated and illustrated six-volume compendium.... Each letter is newly transcribed, painstakingly retranslated without adornment or amendment, and in some case redated in accordance with new research.”
New York Times
“A fabulous six-volume hardcover edition of the artist’s complete surviving correspondence…. They are like snapshots of his creative process, and they are all produced in the six volumes, along with family photographs, maps of the artist’s whereabouts from year to year, and reproductions of art, by himself and others, that he refers to in the letters…. Worth every penny and hard-to-lift pound.”
Zink
“A compelling chronicle of the artist’s innermost thoughts…. Art enthusiasts can ponder the deep words and complicated constructions of each and every letter, including van Gogh’s final testament, which was found in his pocket the day he shot himself in the chest and consequently dies two days later…. Beyond the aesthetic elegance of each handwritten letter lies the documented expression of one of the world’s most loved artists. In van Gogh’s world penmanship was a virtue, words were elocuted with care and sentences, skillfully structured.
The Letters provide a unique glimpse into another era and another time.”
The Independent[UK]
“With his words and visions united in all their blazing intensity, this momentous edition at last completes the palette of Vincent's double art.”
Paul Levy
The new edition of the letters depict Vincent as a rational artist, but a troubled, though superlatively talented, modern man. Above all, the letters are a remedy for critical judgment jaded by a million cheap posters: they help us look at the pictures afresh and see the truly great artist who made them.
—The Wall Street Journal
Jackie Wullschlager
The most important art publication of 2009, if not of the decade. Its innovative approach and ambitious scope significantly deepen our understanding of the great founder of modern art.
—The Financial Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500238653
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 11/16/2009
  • Pages: 2500
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 14.20 (h) x 7.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nienke Bakker is Curator of Exhibitions at the Van Gogh
Museum in Amsterdam.

Leo Jansen is Curator of Paintings at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Hans Luijten is Curator of Research at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

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Table of Contents

Volume 1
The Hague – Etten, letters 1–193
1872–1881

The nineteen-year-old Van Gogh is employed at a branch of Goupil & Co., an art dealer in The Hague. He is transferred to London, where – apart from a brief stay in Paris – he lives for two years. Van Gogh is then moved to Paris, where his employment with Goupil comes to an end. He returns to England to teach at two schools for boys, one in Ramsgate, the other in Isleworth. Turning increasingly to religion, Van Gogh briefly holds down a job at a bookshop in Dordrecht. He struggles to prepare himself for the ministry in Amsterdam, while his religious zeal intensifies. Having failed in his studies, Van Gogh spends almost three years in Belgium, first as a lay preacher in the Borinage, a mining district, then as a fine arts student in Brussels. His brother Theo encourages him to become an artist. Returning home to Etten, Van Gogh falls recklessly in love with his cousin. His feelings are not reciprocated; he falls out with his family and leaves for The Hague.

Volume 2
The Hague, letters 194–384
1881–1883

Van Gogh takes lessons from the painter Anton Mauve in The Hague, but these end when he sets up home with a pregnant former prostitute, Sien Hoornik, who becomes his regular model. Van Gogh spends several weeks in hospital being treated for venereal disease. He then embarks on a period of relative calm and more intent focus on his art.

Volume 3
Drenthe – Paris, letters 385–576
1883–1888

Van Gogh breaks off his relationship with Sien and moves to the countryside in Drenthe. He soon becomes lonely and despondent. He returns to his parents’ house in Nuenen for two years. He reads widely and continues to draw and paint. After his father’s death, he leaves home again. Van Gogh enrolls at the Antwerp art academy, but leaves after two months for Paris. While living in Paris with his brother Theo, Van Gogh meets fellow artists Gauguin, Pissarro, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bernard and Signac. The impact on his art is powerfully felt.

Volume 4
Arles, letters 577–771
1888–1889

After two years of bohemian living in the city, Van Gogh travels to Arles in Provence, in search of light, peace and – most importantly – colour. He persuades Gauguin to join him. After increasing evidence of mental instability, including the infamous ear-cutting episode, Van Gogh is admitted to hospital.

Volume 5
Saint-Rémy – Auvers-sur-Oise, letters 772–902
1889–1890

Van Gogh decides to commit himself to an asylum in nearby Saint-Rémy. Despite a troubled year – spells of mental illness alternating with extremely productive painting sessions – he sends dozens of paintings to Theo in Paris. After further breakdowns, Van Gogh visits a doctor recommended to him by Camille Pissarro in
Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. Having produced an astonishing number of landscapes and portraits there, and believing himself better, Van Gogh suffers a mental relapse and shoots himself in the chest. He dies two days later, with Theo at his bedside.

Related Manuscripts

Twenty-five documents have been designated as ‘related manuscripts’, for consideration with the main corpus of Van Gogh's correspondence. They comprise unfinished, crossed out, incomplete or unsent letters, or fragments of letters. They consist of a number of loose pages, each of which probably once formed part of a letter but which cannot be placed with any certainty.

Volume 6

Van Gogh’s letters: their background and history
The altered composition of the letters
Chronology and family tree
Correspondents
Glossary of materials and techniques
Bibliography
List of works
Maps, concordances and index

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