This lavish but manageable book is the catalog for one of the most successful van Gogh exhibitions ever (at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., through January 3, 1999, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from January 17, 1999, to April 4, 1999). Judging from the haunting, beautifully reproduced paintings and drawings in the book--which range from the iconic to the rarely seen--it is easy to see why hordes of people keep pressing through overcrowded galleries to get a glimpse of the originals. The ones here are all from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, where most of Vincent's work resides.
Author Richard Kendall does a heroic job of writing van Gogh's tortured story one more time. Few artists have analyzed their own work with the clarity and insight Vincent brought to his. And Kendall relies heavily on Vincent's letters to his brother Theo, giving the reader broad access to the ultimate expert, the painter himself. The wealth of color plates is intoxicating--70 paintings, including The Potato Eaters and other early, gloomy works, a dozen self-portraits, Almond Blossom, Wheatfield with Crows, Butterflies and Poppies, The Bedroom, The Zouave, and The Courtesan (van Gogh's take on a Japanese geisha in full regalia).
It seems trivial to further praise the book's designers for holding it to only 150 pages, but the length makes an important difference. This is a volume that fits comfortably on the lap, to be perused and enjoyed at close range, for hours if you want, and not just displayed in unwieldy glory on a coffee table. --Peggy Moorman [via]