To Vincent, with love

In honor of the 130th anniversary of Vincent van Gogh’s death — this past Wednesday, July 29 — Taschen has published “Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings” ($50), all 871 of them in lush color, with accompanying essays.
Meanwhile, our friends at Thames & Hudson have e-mailed us to say they will publish “Vincent van Gogh: A Life in Letters” (488 pages, 85 illustrations, $39.95), edited by Nienke Bakker, Leo Jansen and Hans Luijten, on Sept. 22. This collection of Vincent van Gogh’s letters is designed to offer rare insight into the mind of a complex, tragic but iconic figure in art. Many know that Vincent was the ultimate struggling artiste – the years of soul searching; the mental health issues that made relationships with family and friends, in particular intimacy with women, difficult; the failure to sell more than a couple of works in his lifetime; the ear thing.

Yet Vincent persisted to become one of the world’s great artists, albeit one who did not live to see his mug on, well, mugs.

What many may not know is the story of the heroine in all this – Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, wife of Vincent’s brother and soul-mate, Theo. When her husband died, six months after Vincent’s death by his own hand on July 29, 1890 at age 37, Johanna – a former schoolteacher with a baby son she and Theo had named Vincent — began going through all the letters that her husband kept from Vincent, along with the paintings. Those letters and artworks not only brought her husband back to her; they brought Vincent to life.

Slowly, she began editing and publishing the letters and curating and exhibiting the works. It’s fair to say that Johanna made Vincent the Vincent we know today.  

To whet your appetite for the new book, here’s one of Vincent’s most famous works, “Wheatfield With Cypresses” (1889), part of the collection of “The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which reopens Aug. 29. It certainly captures Vincent’s idea that art isn’t about the reality of a thing but how the artist feels about that reality.

While you’re looking at it, you can listen to Don McLean’s Vincent,” – one artist’s poignant tribute to another.

– Georgette Gouveia

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