Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum

Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum

by Martin Bailey


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Starry Night is a fully illustrated account of Van Gogh's time at the asylum in Saint-Remy. Despite the challenges of ill health and asylum life, Van Gogh continued to produce a series of masterpieces – cypresses, wheatfields, olive groves and sunsets. He wrote very little about the asylum in letters to his brother Theo, so this book sets out to give an impression of daily life behind the walls of the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole and looks at Van Gogh through fresh eyes, with newly discovered material.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780711239203
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Publication date: 08/27/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 601,810
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 9.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Martin Bailey is a leading specialist on Van Gogh and an arts journalist. He is a London-based correspondent for The Art Newspaper. Bailey has curated several exhibitions on Van Gogh, including one at Tate Britain in 2019, and has written extensively on the artist. His books include  The Sunflowers Are Mine (2013),  Studio of the South (2016) and Starry Night (2018).

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Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Master Reader More than 1 year ago
Strokes of Madness - Vincent van Gogh's time at the French Asylum Beautifully put together and exceedingly well researched, the book is a total delight for all who love the art of Vincent van Gogh and are interested to know more about the man behind the canvas, who, for a substantial part of his life lived in agony, mostly with himself. Starry Night offers a closer look at the time the painter spent in Saint-Paul de Mausole, a small asylum in France on the outskirts of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. In fact, the place is just 25 km/16 miles away from Arles, where van Gogh had previously shared the famous Yellow House together with Gauguin. There exists a book by Martin Gayford which tells of nine turbulent weeks, as that's basically how long it lasted, until after a final fallout Gauguin moved out, with the result of van Gogh suffering a severe breakdown and cutting off his left ear. Short after his release from hospital he admits himself to the small asylum at the foot of Les Alpilles (the little Alps), where he spent a bit over a year. A time of intense and painful creativity and where he created in June 1889 one of his most famous paintings "Starry Night". A time, where he also tried to poison himself by swallowing the colours he used for those paintings. Author Martin Bailey, an expert on van Gogh's life, takes the reader on a fascinating journey, which is gripping and touching at the same time and we follow Vincent through the "Harrowing Period". The chapter "The Wheatfield" is for a fan simply a must, as we see a group of paintings on which the artist worked in 1889 during his time in the asylum and which capture a view he had from the studio room, an extra room, that was allocated to him in the institution to enable him to continue to paint. We see the same scene in the changing seasons and without doubt also reflecting good and bad days of the painter himself. But what exactly happenend leading up to van Gogh's moment of madness and self harm? And was it really his free will to go to the asylum? How did he feel upon his arrival, when he saw the place for the first time? A place about which he wrote himself "One continually hears shouts and terrible howls as of animals in a menagerie." What was his treatment like, the other patients, his daily routine? Why did his brother Theo never visit him? Endless questions and carefully the author unravels mystery after mystery. The fluent writing has you hooked from the start. The illustrations and photos, together with never before published material are often jawdropping. There's even a map to offer the visitor of the place and its surrounds an idea for a most enjoyable walk along Vincent's path at this very painful time in his life. To say, I love the book, doesn't cover it. Starry Night is simply one of my highlights of the year, every page is a delight.
ElleryWoodson More than 1 year ago
I received this book for free from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. All thoughts are my own. I enjoyed this book more than most art history books I’ve read, but less than I typically enjoy nonfiction at large. This was a mostly engaging read with many details about Vincent Van Gogh’s time spent at the asylum in Saint-Remy de Provence in Les Alpilles, France, south of Avignon. The book includes more than a hundred accompanying figures, from full-color prints of Van Gogh’s works to pen and ink reproductions by Van Gogh himself, including photographs and maps to give a fuller picture of Van Gogh’s experience at the asylum. The meat of the book is made up of analyses of Van Gogh’s paintings from the time period, placing these works alongside events as they happened in the artist’s life. The author even went so far as to consult astronomy records to pinpoint the exact dates that some of these paintings were created. For example, "Wheatfield with Sheaves and Rising Moon," which depicts a full moon over the wheat field that lay below Van Gogh’s window, is dated as July 13, 1889, due to the position of the moon at that time over Les Alpilles. There are numerous more times the author delves deeply to get to the root of certain paintings. However, this book is more than just an analysis of paintings or a snapshot into Van Gogh’s life. It’s also a history of Victorian psychiatry (referred to as alienists at the time), discussion of Van Gogh’s influences (Japanese artists, Walt Whitman, Alphonse Daudet, and more), and a history off the asylum itself, the people who ran it, and a few of the other patients. All of this informs a more thorough perspective of Van Gogh’s mental health and his experience at the asylum, and all of that gives a greater understanding of some of his most notable works. Drawing from letters Van Gogh sent to his family during the time, the author illustrates the artist’s experience at the asylum in his own words. This is particularly illuminating when, as many of Van Gogh’s letters often did, these quotes focus on art or the artist’s view of the world. For example, Starry Night, is given an entire chapter to itself. About it, the author writes: "Vincent had elaborated on the challenge of painting nocturnes in a letter to Willemien (Wil). The night, he wrote, is ‘even more richly coloured than the day, coloured in the most intense violets, blues and greens.’ He urged his sister to look up to the heavens, where ‘some stars are lemony, others have a pink, green, forgetme-not [sic] blue glow’. He concluded, ‘to paint a starry sky it’s not nearly enough to put white spots on blue-black’." Although meandering and dry at times, this book is a beautiful representation of one of our most beloved painters at one of the most pivotal moments of his life. This review was originally posted to my blog:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters and who doesn’t love Starry Night? I mean, you see it everywhere now…cell phone cases, tapestries, mouse pads, etc. He is one of the most well-known painters worldwide but how much do you really know about his life? I admit, I knew next to nothing and was thrilled to be able to read a copy of Martin Bailey’s new book chronicling the last year or so of his life as a patient of the Saint Paul asylum. I found this book absolutely fascinating. It reads very text book but the narration isn’t dry as I had expected it to be. The artwork (of course) is absolutely beautiful and really gives a little insight to where Vincent’s mind may have been during his battle with mental illness. We also get a peek at his relationship with his brother, Theo, and how Theo really supported Vincent through his life, his asylum years and as a rising artist. Starry Night Van Gogh at the Asylum is very well researched and brilliantly put together for any art lover, or anyone interested in a little bit of history about this amazing artist, to enjoy. My only criticism for this book is that I wish it was a little more chronologically written. There are quite a few places through the book where we flip from one point in time to another and I found it a little confusing trying to keep my facts straight. This beautiful book would make an excellent addition to anyone’s collection, a perfect coffee table conversation starter or a gift for the art lover in your life. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy to read and review
CharJones2525 More than 1 year ago
“Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum” by Martin Bailey is a poignant and beautifully illustrated account of Van Gogh's time at the asylum in Saint-Remy. Despite the challenges of ill health and asylum life, he continued to produce prodigiously and created a series of masterpieces — cypresses, wheatfields, olive groves and sunsets. He wrote very little about this time in letters to his beloved brother Theo, so this book gives a helpful and sensitive impression of daily life behind the walls of the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole and looks at Van Gogh through fresh eyes, with newly discovered material. Highly recommended for all of us who deeply love this masterful artist. 5/5 Pub Date 27 Aug 2018 Thanks to Quarto Publishing Group - White Lion Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are truly mine. #StarryNight #NetGalley