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The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence Paperback – April 24, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618990585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618990580
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 7.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Van Gogh's reputation in the public imagination has been made as much by his descent into madness as by his art. Detailing the final year of his life and the "Studio of the South" in which Gauguin and Van Gogh painted side by side, Gayford brings the art back into focus. Explications of the works illuminate the collaboration—similar subjects find very different treatment by two entirely different temperaments. Yet their influence on each other is everywhere—a story that Van Gogh recommends to Gauguin finds its way into a painting; Van Gogh uses the jute canvas that is Gauguin's material of choice. While some of this is well-trodden territory, Gayford's narrative is genuinely dramatic as it moves toward Van Gogh's fateful end. Gayford makes exciting new connections between the tone of Van Gogh's correspondence and known scholarship about his probable bipolar disorder. The influences of literature, the news media and so-called "hygienic excursions" (visits to the local brothels) percolate in these letters and under the surfaces of the artists' canvases. So, argues Gayford, were they invading Van Gogh's mind. Though it is impossible to entirely understand what motivated these two great artists during their weeks together in Arles, these pages deliver as close and vivid an image as may be possible. 60 b&w illus. (Nov. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In an accessible and even affectionate work of art history, Gayford tells of the two artists who lived and worked in the South of France in the fall of 1888. Their story is told in short episodes, reconstructed through the formal analysis and comparison of the paintings they created during this period, and through letters and newspapers that place the work in the context of the contemporary art world, popular literature, and current events. Their time together culminated in Van Gogh's famous ear-cutting incident (which is revealed on the jacket copy), teens with an interest in the artist's colorful yet short life may take to Gayford's somewhat breathless approach leading up to the big event. The author delights in the quotidian details of his story: the joint visits to local brothels, how the weather may have affected work habits, Gauguin's cooking skills. The biggest drawback is the use of small black-and-white photos of paintings. Suggest that teens read this alongside larger monographs with color reproductions to appreciate the art fully.–Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A greatly enjoyable book.
Christian Schlect
One of the most famous episodes of disastrous behavior by an artist is the tormented Vincent van Gogh's cutting off his ear.
R. Hardy
The book is well written and extremely well researched.
Mike Gadd

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Subtitled: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles

A not-yet-famous Vincent Van Gogh rents a small yellow house in Arles in the south of France, hangs his paintings on the walls, sets up a studio, and invites a not-yet-famous Paul Gauguin to stay with him there and paint. Gauguin moves in, and a turbulent nine-week period of artmaking and everyday life begins.

In The Yellow House, Martin Gayford has combined thorough biographical research of two of the most important artists in history with moving and suspenseful storytelling. He invites readers to live, briefly and chaotically, with Van Gogh and Gauguin. Covering a short period of both artists' lives, the book focuses on details of the everyday, taking the reader into the very small space the two artists shared until it is possible to feel equally the mild claustrophobia and the exhilaration of watching a masterpiece being painted.

This period of time is a crucial one for both artists, and Gayford shows how their living and working together deeply affected both of their development. They shared ideas and meals, disagreed and mimicked one another, and each created some of his greatest masterpieces during this time: Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Gauguin's Vision of the Sermon among them. But all was not well. Less than two months after Gauguin arrived in Arles, Van Gogh suffered the famous breakdown which led him to cut off his own ear.

With masterful storytelling, Gayford builds toward this crisis, describing the tension between Van Gogh and Gauguin, while sensitively exploring Van Gogh's developing mental illness. The result is a vivid and dramatic glimpse into the minds and hearts of two of history's greatest painters.

Armchair Interviews says: Observe these famous artists through this book.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Terri Rowan on December 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Most people have heard of Vincent Van Gogh, the famous--or infamous--nineteenth-century artist. He's the one who painted Starry Night and various Sowers and Sunflowers, among a very few. But he is also notorious as the deranged artist who cut off his ear in 1888.

What lead to this act of self-mutilation, this event known as "the Crisis"? In the weeks leading up to the Crisis, Van Gogh shared a cramped studio with another renowned artist, Paul Gauguin. Located in the southern French town of Arles, the Yellow House became the setting for one of art history's oddest pairings.

In hopes of changing the future of art, Van Gogh and Gauguin agreed to a period of collaboration. Great things indeed happened. But with such disparate personalities, the idyll of the artists' dream didn't last.

Martin Gayford presents an intimate look into a critical period in art history. Dogged research not only into letters written by Van Gogh and Gauguin, but through public records and more, has allowed Gayford to surmise what daily life must have been like for the two artists that autumn.

Art enthusiasts interested in either artist's story will find THE YELLOW HOUSE a fascinating study. Casual purveyors, however, might find their attention wanders when Gayford gets into minute details that mean more to an artist than the average person, such as the weather on a given day. Overall, this accounting of "nine turbulent weeks in Arles" is well done. It is less dry than many biographies, and there is a real sense of the rise and fall of the Yellow House studio, and the enormous emotional impact on all those involved.

This is a definite recommendation for readers interested in Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and/or art from that period.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on March 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A greatly enjoyable book. While focussed on just nine weeks in Arles, the narriative darts back and forth over the past lives of Van Gogh and Gauguin in the attempt to explain their specific actions that took place in and around the famous Yellow House.

Martin Gayford does not claim to have written an academic history, but one attempting to shed clarifying light on the actual motivations, thoughts and techniques that resulted in some of the Western world's greatest art. I think the author succeeded in his objective.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
One of the most famous episodes of disastrous behavior by an artist is the tormented Vincent van Gogh's cutting off his ear. People who don't know anything else about the artist, or anything about art, know about the spectacular self-mutilation. There is more to the story, of course, and the excision of the ear is certainly not the most important part of van Gogh's life, but it did provide a climax to an important episode in that life, the collaboration between van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. In _The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles_ (Little, Brown), art critic Martin Gayford has recreated almost a day-by-day account of the time the two painters lived together, painted together, stimulated one another, and got on each other's nerves. It is a period that art historians have probed ever since van Gogh's postmortem fame, and while there have been recent discoveries made about details of the collaboration, Gayford's book in its chronological account gets close inside the minds of the two giants as they muddled their way through their period as housemates. Though Gayford tells in abbreviated form about what went on in their lives before and after their sharing of the Yellow House, the concentration on this particular period is wonderfully illuminating.

Van Gogh arrived in Arles in February 1888, and on his walks spied the Yellow House, which he leased for five months. He was well known as a loner, but he had long dreamed of making a colony for artists who would collaborate together; it wasn't that they would work jointly on their canvases, but they would "live and paint together - different in individual style but sharing a common aim, exchanging ideas, commenting on each other's work.
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