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Book Review | Vincent van Gogh

Vincent’s Colors

By Julia Barbieri
December 6, 2008
As great an artist as he was, he had much in common with the farmers, shepherds, and vintners of the French countryside, because nothing annoyed him more than pretentiousness. 
Farmhouse in Provence
Farmhouse in Provence, 1888 -Vincent van Gogh

This beautifully bound volume of van Gogh’s paintings and words would make a nice gift to a child, and yet would have wide-ranging appeal to anyone, young or old, who might feel the need to refresh the creative spirit.

When van Gogh left the Netherlands for the south of France, he fell completely in love with its countryside, its cycles of light and shadow, its sunrises and sunsets, and he never looked back. He had fallen completely in love with the country and its people, and the seemingly limitless sources of creativity he found there.

It was here that this artist of original and visionary power learned to speak and think like a man of the earth. Today he is an artistic monolith, but the letters reveal an unassumingly down-to-earth and poetic man.

As great an artist as he was, he had much in common with the farmers, shepherds, and vintners of the French countryside, because nothing annoyed him more than pretentiousness.

The book joins his paintings with the letters that he wrote to his younger brother, Theo. The letters reveal the voice of a man who is not in love with himself, but with a power that is beyond his control. In quiet, eloquent, and poetic terms, his brilliant intelligence and depth of love for nature and its vivid colors, make his paintings seem clearer and more detailed.

Van Gogh's own words form a connection with nature and art that will begin to establish that connection in the reader’s mind, whether young or old.

About the painting Sunflowers, he wrote “twelve flowers that are light on light”, and about The Starry Night, “and in my head a starry night”. He celebrated a natural vision, which he defined with texture, color, shape, and words, which describe the splendid possibilities of “seeing” these intricate layers with the clarity and freshness a child seeing the world for the first time.

Vincent’s Colors is a straightforward but remarkable introduction to van Gogh’s art. The paintings duplicate the nature of his brushstrokes, in excellent color and detail.

Vincent's Colors By Vincent Van Gogh, William Lach, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) Published 2004 Chronicle Books

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