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Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh

Van Gogh: The Life (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith

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374928,918 (4.37)18
Title:Van Gogh: The Life
Authors:Steven Naifeh
Other authors:Gregory White Smith
Info:Random House (2011), Hardcover, 976 pages
Collections:Your library, To read

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Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh (2011)



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
"Van Gogh - The Life" by Steven Naifeh and Gergory White Smith has to be one of the most detailed, voluminous and exhausting biographies on the market. I say exhausting because of the repetitive, pages-long analyses of not just van Gogh's paintings, but also his health (mental and physical), his relationships (with family, friends, other artists, strangers) his appearance, his philosophy - or should I say philosophies, since he changed so often in his short, 10 year artistic career - of art and painting. I found myself cursorily skimming over such analytical interludes after the third or fouth round of the same subject or topic in an effort to plow my way to the end of the 879 page tome. And van Gogh lived only to the age of 37!

Yet van Gogh is a mesmerizing figure in art history. And if you want to know in minute detail, with many words spilled on the way, what his life and times were like and how it all fit into the confusing genre history of art in the latter part of the 19th century, this is the book to have in your library.

The black and white illustrations throughout and the color plates of some of van Gogh's work that are provided are very instructive and help develop an understanding of the artistic phases he went through. The genelogical table and maps at the beginning of the book were also very helpful.

Yesterday (March 30, 2016) was van Gogh's 163rd birthday. In a news item remarking on the significance of this day, it was stated that he committed suicide in Arles in southern France. Had the writer of that item consulted our authors' magnum opus, he/she would have learned that his death occurred in Auver, France, twenty miles outside of Paris, and that the question of suicide is still open in the minds of many people. That it was a tragic death, there can be no dispute. He was on the cusp of noteriety, even fame, and the possibility of finally supporting himself. But it is made ever so more tragic by the death of Vincent's younger brother, Theo, just six months later. Theo had supported Vincent financially for most of his adult life (their extensive correspondance is the basis for much of the detail in the book) and at his own death, Theo's insanity was even more pronounced.

"Van Gogh - The LIfe" is not for the reader who is faint of heart. But it is a comprehensive look at a strange and remarkable individual who suffered much but left an undying legacy. ( )
  BlaueBlume | Mar 31, 2016 |
a very informative biography of this artist. vincent was a failure at everything he attempted in his life. it appears that he had a form of epilepsy that affected his brain from normal functioning of course he also had syphilis. the interesting thing was at his first his greatest point of madness, cutting off his ear while living with Gauguin was the time his art became known to the art world. When Gauguin returned to Paris he of course told the story of that night. Gauguin was the raising star of the art world. a young art critic, Albert Aurier, heard the story and he became interested in Van Gogh. He then became his champion. Sad for van gogh it was too late. the book studies not only the creative process of the art world but also the money of that world ( )
  michaelbartley | Sep 29, 2013 |
Fantastic depth of research and meticulously written, unfortunately not a great read because its so damn depressing, Naifeh certainly accentuates the negatives in Van Gogh's life. Its a somber catalogue of Van Gogh's gradual alienation from his family, society and eventually life itself. Not denying that this certainly happened and his life was an unfolding tragedy, however, I would much rather see Van Gogh celebrated for his genius and his work. There's precious little of that here. My advice to Mr Naifeh and any other would-be biographer of this immortal artist would be "Lighten up, guys" ( )
  drmaf | Sep 16, 2013 |
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith galvanized readers with their astonishing Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, a book acclaimed for its miraculous research and overwhelming narrative power. Now Naifeh and Smith have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable, and ultimately heartbreaking portrait of creative genius 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. While drawing liberally from the artist’s famously eloquent letters, they have also delved into hundreds of unpublished family correspondences, illuminating with poignancy the wanderings of Van Gogh’s troubled, restless soul. Naifeh and Smith 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; his impetus for turning to brush and canvas; and his move to Provence, where in a brief burst of incandescent
productivity 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 deep immersion in
literature and art; his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; and his bouts of depression and mental illness. Recommended by Carolyn Stephens
  SFCC | Jun 4, 2013 |
An astonishing and redefining portrait of a tormented and brilliant artist. Covers literally everything - family life and troubles, alienating personality, the books and painters he adored, everything.

Van Gogh does not come across as a too sympathetic person - his personality, ingratiating and tempestuous, has driven away all but a few of his most devoted friends and his brother. His early forays with jobs and art education are embarrassing to read. He is fragile, wracked with his desires and the epilepsy and depression which tormented him, but audacious, producing brilliant portraits within days. His output is astonishing. One wonders about the old adages about the costs of genius, and how van Gogh himself says "I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."

The madness of genius. Despite everything, he is praised and immortalized.

Excellent choice of pictures accompany the text - the color reproductions are excellent, and you can see the clumps of paint from the individual brush strokes. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steven Naifehprimary authorall editionscalculated
Smith, Gregory Whitemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Molegraaf, MarioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To our mothers,
Marion Naifeh and Kathryn White Smith,
who first showed us the joy of art,
and to all the artists of THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL,
who have since brought so much joy into our lives,
this book is gratefully dedicated.

First words
Theo imagined the worst.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375507485, Hardcover)

A Look Inside Van Gogh

Jo Bonger Van Gogh with son Vincent van Gogh
Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Vincent van Gogh, Age 13
Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Vincent van Gogh, Age 18
Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Theo van Gogh, 1890
Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
The Yellow House Arles
Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Graves of Vincent and Theo van Gogh Auvers
Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Draws on newly available primary sources to present an in-depth, accessible profile that offers revisionist assessments of the influential artist's turbulent life and genius works.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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