- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1st Edition edition (March 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140446745
- ISBN-13: 978-0140446746
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 92 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1998
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About the Author
Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was born in Holland. He became an assistant with an international firm of art-dealers and in 1881 he went to Brussels to study art. After an unsuccessful love affair with his cousin he returned to Holland and in 1885 he painted his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, a haunting scene of domestic poverty. A year later his brother Theo, an art dealer, enabled him to study in Paris, where he met Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Seurat, who became very important influences on his work.
In 1888 he left Paris for the Provençal landscape at Arles, the subject of many of his best works, including "Sunflowers" and "The Chair and the Pipe." It was here Van Gogh cut off his ear, in remorse for threatening Gauguin with a razor during a quarrel, and he was placed in an asylum for a year. On July 7, 1890 Van Gogh shot himself at the scene of his last painting, the foreboding "Cornfields with Flight of Birds," and he died two days later.
Ronald de Leeuw has been the director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam since 1986. He trained as an art historian at the universities of Los Angeles, California, and of Leiden, The Netherlands. As a specialist in nineteenth-century painting, he has been responsible for numerous exhibitions in The Netherlands and abroad, including the 1990 Vincent Van Gogh Centennial retrospective in Amsterdam. Since 1990 Ronald de Leeuw has also directed the Museum Mesdag in The Hague, known for its fine Barbizon and Hague School holdings. In 1994 he was appointed professor extraordinary in the history of collecting at the Free University of Amsterdam.
Arnold Pomerans was born in 1920 and was educated in South Africa. He emigrated to England in 1948, and from 1948 to 1955 taught physics in London. In 1955 he became a full-time translator and has had just under two hundred major works issued by leading British and US publishers. Among the authors translated by him are Louis de Broglie, Anne Frank, Sigmund Freud, George Grosz, Jan Huizinga, Jean Piaget and Jules Romain.
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This book contains a selection of letters from van Gogh to his brother Theo, to his mother, and to artist friends Anton van Rappard and Paul Gauguin. These letters were collected, assembled and numbered by Theo’s wife Johanna, whose Memoir formed the introduction to their original publication and is included here in full, as well.
My main problem with this book, is not with what is in it, but what is not, why is not. Said differently, we are offered an edited version of the person he was, an intentional mutilated view of his whole self, clearly appreciable if you compare any of the letters as presented here and the full reproduction of the letter elsewhere. I find extremely irritating editors with little understanding of what a historical document is trying to 'rewrite' history for the sake of brevity, to please, who?
The complete correspondence of Van Gogh might be a fatty plate for some people to swallow, and that is understandable. If a selection needs to be done for a book to be saleable, profitable and palatable, at least make a selection that is historically sound, well introduced and commented. However, the main sin of this book is not even the selection, but the fact that the letters chosen aren't reproduced in full. It is not that just that the dates, salutations and valedictions have been removed, it is that many times we get 1% of the original letter, a paragraph of a letter that had many pages.
One cannot separate the state of mind, heart and life circumstances of the artist from his art, because they are intrinsically linked. In fact, the editorial house's blah-blah-blah promo says just so. But after doing the mutilation, they say that this edition is "The result is an atypical take on Vincent van Gogh that avoids putting too much stress on his troubled mental state and too much straining by the editor to shape a narrative out of van Gogh's epistolary clues. Instead, we see the thoughtful and contemplative side of this creative genius, as well as his concern for the impact his art and life had on those people closest to him."
One gets more the multifaceted personality of Van Gogh by having his letters not mutilated. In addition, I don't want anybody who is not a super-duper editor with an understanding of what an historical text is, to do anything for me, to produce a mediocre text when a good one can be produced. If you cannot do something well, better do nothing. You might say, the book costs less than 4 bucks, right? but there are editions that offer the complete full unabridged non-mutilated translation of the correspondence for less than that.
Although the letters read well overall and some passages flow and are really enjoyable to read, many times the language is unnecessarily messy, wordy and imprecise. Besides, the many French bits are not translated or annotated, and so if you don't have a medium knowledge of that language, you will find yourself uttering a what?! quite often.
This ebook works well in my device and have had no issues whatsoever. However, I'd like to mention, some little things:
> The book has some of Van Gogh's sketches and paintings mentioned in the letters reproduced in the book. They should have been attached to the letters they relate to, or at least linked from the letter to the sketch and back to the letter. This has not been done, and we can only access the drawings and paintings by going to the index of illustrations at the beginning.
> The analytic index has been linked in Kindle, although the number of page is not reflected, and a reference number appears instead.
> I have noticed some typos, mistakes, and results of the digital conversion that need to be addressed.
-- Proper typos: exhibitiosn (loc. 1023).
-- Unnecessary use of capitals: went into an Inn and I thought that he would stay (Locs 1255-1256). , Poor lad (Loc. 1299)
-- Unnecessary hyphenation of letters, probably the result of the digital conversion, as they might have been in different line breaks when converted to Kindle: bread con- venient for me’ (Loc. 1503).
-- Dubious verb concordance: Those vegetable gardens there have A KIND of old Dutch character which always greatly APPEAL to me. (Locs 2624-2625).
And so on.
It is because of my disappointment with this edition, that I searched for alternatives and came across very cheap and medium-priced books that supersede this edition in everything. A very cheap edition of the full correspondence and paintings (excluding the sketches) of Van Gogh plus the introductory biography by Joanna, can be found on Kindle: Delphi Complete Works of Vincent van Gogh (Illustrated) (Masters of Art Book 3). If you just want a medium-priced selection of the correspondence, not the whole bunch, but seriously edited and translated, based on sound academic criteria, with high quality reproductions of the sketches and drawings included in the letters you can read the edition by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker of the Van Gogh Museu, titled Ever Yours: The Essential Letters.
Little by little, it started to grab my attention, more and more, until I was genuinely "hooked". I am dumbfounded by van Gogh's gift of writing - how many of us knew that? He was certainly one of the most introspective and insightful men I've ever had the pleasure to read. Who knew that he was in his way as gifted with his writing as he was with his painting? His vocabulary, his ability to see beyond the obvious, his beautiful and tender emotions, his love for all his friends and family - it just leaves me feeling stunned by the magnitude of his thinking, his suffering, his hard, hard work. I'm not a "professional" reviewer, and I can't write like one. However, I am almost 80 years old, and have read hundreds of books, on all kinds of subjects...and I have to say this one strikes me as one that goes right to one's heart and soul - literally.
Do yourself a favor, stick with this book, and feel transformed by the enriching experience of it all. I have a better, though belated appreciation for this beautiful man
brother. Van Gogh felt the spirit - whatever one takes that to mean - and tried to become a preacher like his father.
He was too Christ-like to learn Greek and Latin; he wanted to preach and reach people.He put aside "the Book"and
In a 10 year span he created some of the most iconic images of the century and, more importantly, spoke and preached about beauty and seeing things, through his self-taught paintings that have spoken to millions.