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Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series) Hardcover – October 1, 2005
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*Starred Review* "Drawing is the root of everything," van Gogh wrote to his brother, and, as Ives explains, his drawings, like his justifiably famous letters, were "regular and faithful records of what was on his mind." Commanding in their vigor and acuity, stunning in their directness, van Gogh's drawings are as magnificent in their way as his paintings. It is a boon, therefore, to have nearly 400 line drawings and watercolors gathered in one comprehensive volume. A passionate landscape artist, van Gogh discerned the beauty of even the most modest terrains. You sense grass growing, flowers exhaling fragrance, leaves lifting on a breeze. Then, in winter scenes, he conveys a potent dormancy as bare branches sketch a calligraphy of longing against a brooding sky. His portraits of working people are also evocative, deeply empathic, and respectful. But for all the vitality of his line, loneliness pools in every shadow, and even as van Gogh celebrates fecundity and fortitude, death is ever present. Yet because his attunement to beauty is a form of faith, his drawings trace the unceasing whirl and fusion of life and embody the promise that nothing is truly lost but, rather, transformed. Donna Seaman
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Top Customer Reviews
With over 350 drawings, mostly reproduced in color, and dozens more color reproductions of paintings, this will no doubt be the definitive work of the artist's drawings. We see many of his early drawings, including those enhanced with chalk, watercolor, etc. We see the drawings and watercolors done in preparation for his paintings and then we see the paintings themselves.
But the high points of the book are the three drawings in pen and ink done after each of the paintings and intended as reproductions of those works. He wanted a means to share these paintings with three different correspondents: John Russell, Emile Bernard and his brother Theo. He obviously couldn't afford the oil and canvas to reproduce each painting three more times. These laborious drawings were executed and mailed to individuals with whom Van Gogh wanted to share his work (and perhaps impress), or, in the case of his brother, to also show his love and appreciation. Slight variations among the three drawings after the same painting show further, "post-oil" development of each subject and give us additional insight into his style and his thinking. The color reproductions of his drawings allow us to see how the ink on each has faded over time and a 100-year old reproduction of a drawing shows us how the original has faded over time. Because virtually all of the drawings done as a mature artist were on 9-1/2 by 11-1/2 sheets, the reproductions in the book are almost actual size.
Fortunately, both Bernard and Theo's widow and heirs believed very strongly in his work, including his drawings, and ignored the advice of critics to throw it all away. They continued to promote the artist's work after his death, eventually leading to his broader recognition over the following decades. If you appreciate great drawing, this is a "must have" book.