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Vincent Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings (Two Volume Set) (1993)
by Ingo F. Walther, Rainer Metzger (Author)
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As much as I love having a complete collection of Van Gogh's work in a single volume, I was not completely impressed with this book. Unlike Taschen's publication which covers the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, this paperback version isn't split into two volumes (even though it is intellectually split) so it becomes pretty unwieldy without the strength of a proper binding. It's not quite as physically big as I expect an art book of this magnitude to be as well, so I feel that some of the reproduction size was a bit too small to get a proper feeling for the luscious texture of Van Gogh's brushwork. Further hindering full-size reproductions was the overabundance of text, which traces what feels like every second of the artist's life - a useful quality for a biography, but I honestly couldn't care less about a lot of the detail that the writer went in to and found it to be extremely overwhelming. After about 100 pages I gave up on reading completely and focused instead on just enjoying the paintings, since that's what I came for anyways! ( )
Complete works in new book...
The smaller hardcover edition (length and width of a larger paperback) is a satisfying addition to our library. It includes well-executed photo plates of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings, wonderfully representative of his colors. Lots of enjoyable bits of history, artistic techniques, etc.
This single volume edition ISBN 3822812153 published in 2001 containing 740 pages was originally issued in two separate volumes. It contains all of the about 870 paintings comprising the artist’s complete output, reproduced in full colour with just a few exceptions where for any of several legitimate reasons a colour picture is not available.
It is an admirable effort, the quality of printing is superb, and the standard of photography in many instances is excellent showing the texture of the paint and brush work. In the case of the latter the paintings truly sing out from the page. The pictures are presented chronologically, which in itself is very revealing. The text is extensive and very informative, and being largely based on Van Gogh’s letters makes truly fascinating reading and lends an intimate edge. It provides a background to the artist’s life and his work and influences.
I should mention a couple of points. Many of the reproductions are quite small, less than post card size, some considerably less; there are of course some half page and full page size too. The other point is that while the text and illustrations are fully integrated there is little if any relationship between the text and image on each page. When there is a reference in the text to a picture the picture is invariably to be found many pages apart. Of course with the pictures presented chronologically this was bound to be a problem; but would it then not have been better to separate the two completely. One could also argue for a larger page size, but a least at this fairly modest size the book is at least not unwieldy.
That aside this is a splendid book; and one of the best surprises is that while there are of course many very familiar paintings here, the less familiar are by no means overshadowed by them; it is in fact a revelation to find so many superb yet relatively unknown works. Tremendous value, a book not to be passed over.
As the title says, every known painting by Vincent van Gogh is presented here, nearly all in color, well-reproduced and many full-page. But more than that, the authors analyze van Gogh's life story throughout every stage of his artistic development (and this is a more complex and multi-layered artistic growth than I had realized). I was especially fascinated by his fascination with Japanese art, and the last few months of his life. This was his most productive period (he painted over 80 works in his last 2 months), with probably some of his best work, and perhaps his happiest period. And yet he shot himself on July 27, 1890, dying 2 days later, his last words reportedly "I wish it were all over now". The author tries quite a lot of psychoanalysis through Vincent's letters and art, and he may be on the mark when he says that the artist killed himself when he realized that he could never again have the simple life he craved (although he only sold one painting in his lifetime, he had been gaining growing recognition in the art world). Also, he may have wanted to help his brother Theo's flagging fortunes by means of the old artistic truism, that an artist's works rise dramatically in value after his death. And he did dote on his brother and nephew. The works here that stand out most to me are: pg 138; "Skull With Burning Cigarette", painted during a period of fairly routine human portraits, this stands out as no other picture in van Gogh's body of work. It was used as the book cover of a David Sedaris book, and I didn't even realize until now that it was a van Gogh. pg. 520, "Starry Night", his most famous work and a vivid one that swirls as though it will move off the canvas in a shower of color. pg. 690, "Wheat Field with Crows", painted near the end of his life, and often analyzed for clues to Vincent's frame of mind before he killed himself, with its disturbing imagery of crows flapping into the foreground toward the viewer over a turbulent field of wheat with a gash of a road cutting through it, to ultimately disappear. This is one of the most emotionally powerful paintings I know, and one can see the point that this is not the work of a stable soul.
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (5)
Vincent van Gogh is regarded not only as a major pioneer of modernism, but as one of the greatest artists of all time. This book combines a detailed monograph on his life and art with a complete catalogue of his paintings.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)759.9492 — The arts Painting History, geographic treatment, biography Other geographic areas Europe Other parts Netherlands
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