History's Greatest Artists: The Life and Legacy of Vincent van Gogh

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Publisher Description

*Includes pictures of 20 of van Gogh's most famous works, including an explanation of his techniques and influences.

*Includes pictures of van Gogh and excerpts of his letters to brother Theo.

*Explains the artistic influences and legacy of van Gogh's life and art. 

*Discusses the mysteries and controversies surrounding van Gogh's mental illnesses and death.

*Includes a Bibliography for further reading.

*Includes a Table of Contents. 

"A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many little threads has no time to philosophize about it, but rather he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn’t think but acts, and he feels how things must go more than he can explain it." – Vincent van Gogh, 1883

Vincent van Gogh is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists of all time, and though the critical establishment may not consider him the greatest artist who ever lived, there may be no artist with whom the public has a greater familiarity. Unfortunately, a great deal of that familiarity comes from the circumstances leading up to his death, and the manner in which they have been linked to his painting career. Of all the things that occurred in van Gogh’s tumultuous life and career, the best known thing about it might be that he cut off the lower left lobe of his ear, and much of the general public is familiar with his painting “Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. In 1882, Vincent would hauntingly and somewhat prophetically write to his brother Theo, “What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”

Across much of the world, van Gogh’s body of work is so commonplace that virtually everyone is familiar with at least some element of his life. Reproductions of his paintings populate offices, calendars, t-shirts, and the like, and his paintings continue to have the potential to affect people. On the surface, it might appear as though van Gogh is a very familiar figure, and yet people have spent nearly 125 years wondering just what compelled him to harm himself, just how tortured he was mentally, and what kind of effects it had on his art. In addition to dying a premature (and still controversial) death, van Gogh was 27 before beginning his 10-year painting career, meaning he painted for a comparably short period of his life. Nevertheless, he produced an extraordinary amount of art, and much of the myth of van Gogh surrounds the fact that he painted over 800 paintings (and many more drawings and watercolors) in such a short time. Understandably, the sheer volume of work meant that many had an unfinished, primal quality that seems to be commensurate with the type of person who would paint 800 paintings (in addition to numerous drawing and studies) over 10 years, building to a feverish crescendo at the end of his life. On top of that, van Gogh also managed to find time to write nearly 900 letters during that same period. Given the way his art and life blend together, it’s no surprise that van Gogh and his work continue to deeply affect viewers to this day.

While van Gogh’s painting career is the period of greatest interest, it was in many ways a response to his upbringing and the events of his youth. History’s Greatest Artists: The Life and Legacy of Vincent Van Gogh examines van Gogh’s life before his career, a close analysis of his painting style and artistic themes, and his controversial death. Along with pictures of some of his most famous work, excerpts from his letters, a bibliography, and a Table of Contents, you will learn about one of history’s greatest painters like you never have before, in no time at all.

15 April
Charles River Editors

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