On December 23, 1888, when Vincent van Gogh sliced off part of his left ear, he also severed his relationship with Paul Gauguin, the friend who had shared his home in Arles for nine tumultuous weeks. In The Yellow House, art critic Martin Gayford examines the dynamics of this failed friendship and analyzes some of the astonishing paintings it inspired. Drawing on a rich trove of primary sources, Gayford pieces together the everyday details of this celebrated cohabitation -- a roller-coaster ride of creative collaboration, fierce competitiveness, and escalating drama -- especially for Vincent, who would die soon afterward. More than biography, The Yellow House is a shrewd psychological study of two troubled artists whose symbiotic relationship produced some of the world's great masterpieces.
Van Gogh's reputation in the public imagination has been made as much by his descent into madness as by his art. Detailing the final year of his life and the "Studio of the South" in which Gauguin and Van Gogh painted side by side, Gayford brings the art back into focus. Explications of the works illuminate the collaboration similar subjects find very different treatment by two entirely different temperaments. Yet their influence on each other is everywhere a story that Van Gogh recommends to Gauguin finds its way into a painting; Van Gogh uses the jute canvas that is Gauguin's material of choice. While some of this is well-trodden territory, Gayford's narrative is genuinely dramatic as it moves toward Van Gogh's fateful end. Gayford makes exciting new connections between the tone of Van Gogh's correspondence and known scholarship about his probable bipolar disorder. The influences of literature, the news media and so-called "hygienic excursions" (visits to the local brothels) percolate in these letters and under the surfaces of the artists' canvases. So, argues Gayford, were they invading Van Gogh's mind. Though it is impossible to entirely understand what motivated these two great artists during their weeks together in Arles, these pages deliver as close and vivid an image as may be possible. 60 b&w illus. (Nov. 14) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Art critic Gayford offers a stimulating study of art history's truly odd couple, the calm Paul Gauguin and the explosive Vincent van Gogh. Adding to this work's historical value is the period covered—1888—which precedes their acknowledged fame. Gayford offers insights into the concerns of these future giants and outlines their everyday activities, including what they cooked and ate, their walks, their brothel visits, and their discussions. He explores in detail the bipolar affliction he believes was responsible for van Gogh's moments of insanity, covering exclusively the nine weeks before van Gogh's infamous act of self-mutilation and its immediate aftermath. But Gayford also provides a masterful sketch of Gauguin's and van Gogh's differing temperaments and aesthetical approaches to the objects they painted. He succeeds in reinforcing their mutual understanding and influence on each other, keeping the focus on their paintings. This blend of art history, biography, and criticism is as engaging and captivating as it is informative. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.
Edward K. Owusu-Ansah
Adult/High School-In an accessible and even affectionate work of art history, Gayford tells of the two artists who lived and worked in the South of France in the fall of 1888. Their story is told in short episodes, reconstructed through the formal analysis and comparison of the paintings they created during this period, and through letters and newspapers that place the work in the context of the contemporary art world, popular literature, and current events. Their time together culminated in Van Gogh's famous ear-cutting incident (which is revealed on the jacket copy), teens with an interest in the artist's colorful yet short life may take to Gayford's somewhat breathless approach leading up to the big event. The author delights in the quotidian details of his story: the joint visits to local brothels, how the weather may have affected work habits, Gauguin's cooking skills. The biggest drawback is the use of small black-and-white photos of paintings. Suggest that teens read this alongside larger monographs with color reproductions to appreciate the art fully.-Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In the fall and early winter of 1888, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared a studio in a yellow house in the south of France. Result? Much painting and whoring and, at the end, a meltdown and an ear-slicing. Gayford (co-editor of the Grove Book of Art Writing and chief art critic for Bloomberg News) has crafted a brisk, engaging narrative about the brief co-habitation of two of the world's most celebrated painters. Although the author focuses more frequently on the mercurial van Gogh and his varied vagaries, Gauguin comes off well, and the many reproductions offered here of the works he produced during his time with van Gogh form an eloquent testimony to his genius. Gauguin also emerges as a tolerant man who recognized the prodigious and prolific talent of his friend and endured the tortured Dutchman as long as possible. Things started well that remarkable fall. The two took walks, painted common subjects, visited local museums, read books together (Zola, for instance), visited the local prostitutes regularly, agreed on the splendors of Delacroix, argued about the merits of other painters. Gauguin's career accelerated during the period (he sold several paintings through the offices of Theo van Gogh, the painter's brother), occasioning some anxiety in Vincent, who was not doing so well. The bonhomie eventually weakened, and when van Gogh sliced off his ear (or a part thereof), Gauguin, after helping rescue his friend, entrained for Paris; the two never saw each other again. Gayford's principal interest is with the paintings. He discusses the major ones (and some of the minor) with great care and sensitivity and sees in the artists' work some cross-fertilization. The author ends withthe deaths of all involved and speculates that van Gogh suffered from bipolar disorder. Lucid and learned and propelled by a piercing dramatic irony. Agent: David Godwin/David Godwin Associates