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on April 1, 2017
A magical scholarly work of epic scope.
Not only are you learning about Vincent but also the world around him.
Historical context is so important when learning about a figure from the past.
It's what bad biographies lack: the place and times of that particular individual.
I have read many books about Van Gogh including his letters and it is a joy to learn so much more and in such a well written way. Simply excellent.
And I'm only on page 127!
And don't forget about the book's website created by the authors with an additional
6000 pages of notes!!
Get it. And get a used hardcover. I did.
It's beautiful and only cost
10$(including shipping)
Boom
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on July 31, 2016
It truely encompasses all aspects of Van Gogh's life with a fine tooth comb. It thoroughly explains not just his life but the lives of others in his life and how they shaped him. I found this to be a refreshing take though I would get bogged down with the details when it didnt directly pertain to Vincent himself, and often I would want more direct qouting from the man himself and not just the authors interpretation. They did quote him but I would have liked entire letters of his included, even just in the back of the book that you could flip to in reference to something the authors were discussing and to also include the pieces he was workiing on. I feel that would be one of the only improvements to the book, that and more citing. There were often times I would remember a "fact" and go to check what the reference was but there would be no citing to a statement. And other times I was not satisfied with the reference because I did not feel that I would be capable of finding that reference so that I could myself read it. It is older text though that they had to sort through in making this book but I would have liked some inclusion of these documents. There is a website that they made that is to be used in addition to this book, and it does include much more like what I am asking. I would have been fine with a book twice as long with all the other content that is on that website in a book format.

A must though in regards to Vincent Van Gogh's death, if even, to lead you in the direction of there references for you to guage your own opionion.
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on May 28, 2013
A thorough biography of Van Gogh! To the less than a handful who panned this book: of COURSE there is a bit of speculation here: the two things Vincent is best known for, outside of his paintings, are the ear occurrence and the suicide (accident/murder?)--both stories were told to history from very potentially unreliable sources (those who might have been hiding their own guilt in the matter), and so sensible speculation is left open. This book is endlessly rich in factual detail and what few suggestions they do make (and they DO remain suggestions--the authors do not make wild proclamations about anything when it comes to some speculation)rely on what the facts suggest, not simply the authors. In short, try to write the life of ANYONE without having to speculate a bit, let alone someone as complex and complicated as Van Gogh. And to those who saw this as a totally negative portrait: "what were you reading?" I didn't get that at all. Van Gogh is not presented as a prophet or saint, but who could be? And did you not get the authors' main thesis for why the accidental shooting (if so it was)was covered up?: Van Gogh's ongoing good-heartedness toward his ruffian tormenters. As to the accidental shooting theory. Yeah, it's a possibility, and the authors make a case for it. I am not sure if I am won over, but it certainly seems a possibility, especially given the circumstances surrounding the gun.
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on October 25, 2011
I read biographies almost exclusively. So when I first saw the fascinating "60 Minutes" piece on the new VanGogh biography I thought to myself, why do we need another book on VanGogh? Lots of books, movies, pop songs, dormroom posters - even Starry Night on the start-up screen on my celphone. Haven't we had enough of Vincent Van Gogh? Turns out we haven't. This may not be the first source on Van Gogh that I've ever seen but it is the first time I've ever actually met him.

This book was the fastest, freshest 800 and some pages I've ever read. So often, a biographer forgets that his subject did not LIVE as a subject of a book. (Ok, Washington did, but still...) So we get research, information, quotes, blah blah blah. But in VanGogh: The Life, I could feel Vincent experiencing his life as vividly as I experience my own.

We walk WITH Vincent through his powerful, wrenching life with writing that is immediate, facts that are fresh - even a little surprise about the alleged suicide - told with a psychological accuity that obliterates that tired 'tortured artist' cliche which has passed for VanGogh biography in the past. And you get a bonus master class in art history to boot! All presented with such a complelling, almost novelistic narrative, that Vincent's demise arrives nearly as a tragic surprise. Because you wind up knowing this guy and actually rooting for him. I felt real suspense reading a book about a man whose life was generally known to me. But still you will weep at his deathbed with the only other person who ever cared about him.

Oh... and if you're a fan of grown-up words and luxurious sentences - and I am - then just read this book for the experience of literature. When's the last time you got to do that? A PLUS!!
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on December 30, 2013
Upon reading reviews, I settled on this biography of Van Gogh and i was not disappointed. It was not a quick read, but being endlessly fascinated by this man, I loved every bit of it. The author delved deeply into Van Gogh's childhood and the dynamics between the parents and children and between the siblings. Van Gogh's family was present for better and worse throughout his life. Following him through his years in the art scene, "trying" to fit in, trying be successful, trying to be respected, but ultimately impairing himself and being ridiculed. The relationships are fascinating. After finishing this book, I would like to research if there are many books written questioning the manner of his death. If you have any thoughts, please post a response.
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on October 10, 2013
I have to commend the authors for their research efforts and how they managed to piece together the story of the famous painter's life through personal correspondence . I can only imagine how painstaking this effort must have been. Having said that I do think that the book seems excessively long and could have been much condensed. At well over 900 pages in length it requires a lot of time to read and process. Expect to stay at this reading effort a long while. Also much of this is very depressing and sad so it seems incumbent to point that out as I could only read this in small doses as the subject matter is so weighty and dispiriting. Finally I have to admit that Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters and it was sad to read about the demons that so controlled his life.
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on November 15, 2013
Having read several biographies on Vincent van Gogh, I found this book to be superbly done. Making use of all of the available information on him, the authors presented a very thorough resource. As is often the case, some of the details vary from those presented in other sources, and the interpretations of these events are often colored by the author's opinion, however these opinions are fairly logical and well-supported.

In particular, this book calls into question the circumstances surrounding van Gogh's death. While the biographical presentation of the facts is somewhat biased to the author's opinion, I am impressed that the authors took special caution to present their case in an Addendum, rather than including it in the body of the biography. The opinion that van Gogh may not have committed suicide definitely goes against generally accepted opinion, and the authors clearly made every attempt to separate their opinion from the popular or accepted opinions.

As a biography it is extremely well done, thanks to the unusual amount of surviving resources on van Gogh, and the commitment of the authors. As a biography specific to Vincent van Gogh, it is certainly one of, if not the, best available.

Highly recommended.
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on March 10, 2015
I read mostly biographies and I have to say this is just about the best one I've ever read. I've been a fan of van Gogh's work since I was very young and knew only the myths surrounding him and his work. This book sets the record straight about the kind of man Vincent was, how he approached his work, and how much he accomplished in spite of serious mental illness that went undiagnosed for so long, causing him so much anguish, loss of friends, and even being distanced from his family. And thankfully, the authors make a good case for how he died, not a suicide as most people think. You have to wonder how it took so long for the truth to be known. So much detail and description it's like you're there watching the artist at work, seeing the paintings develop. I have to say, "Thank you" to the authors for this wonderful work that I'm certain I'll read again and again.
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on December 9, 2014
Excellent! It was a lengthy book (by my standards) but very comprehensive and well done. It makes great use of the thousands of letters and correspondence between Vincent, his brother Theo, and others during his life that gives you great insight as to what was happening in his life and his thoughts. Very well done. My only criticism might be the desire to see more of his art included in the book to fully frame out the discussion and what I thought to be an overuse of some very heady words which required some research on my part. I would recommend to all art lovers, history buffs, and especially fans of Van Gogh.
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on October 13, 2014
It's a wonderfully written account of van Gogh's miserable yet inspiring life. Naifeh and Smith (the authors) write with brilliant voice and the language is not just beautiful, it makes Vincent's life a work of art. They go into a lot of detail about his life, but in an exciting way. Yes, this book is quite thick, but it's worth it, because as an artist myself I believe that the authors couldn't have done better to capture the spirit and the genius and the beauty of the man Vincent Van Gogh. It actually teared me up at the end. I felt like I was so close the the artist and it felt like I was losing a friend when they wrote of his death. Okay, that sounds super cheesy, but it's true. Get this book! It doesn't matter if you don't know anything about art or if you're an artist yourself, read this.
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