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Van Gogh: The Life [Paperback]

Steven Naifeh , Gregory White Smith
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 4 2012
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, who galvanized readers with their Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Jackson Pollock, have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable portrait of Vincent van Gogh. Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of previously untapped materials to bring a crucial understanding to the larger-than-life mythology of this great artist: his early struggles to find his place in the world; his intense relationship with his brother Theo; and his move to Provence, where he painted some of the best-loved works in Western art. The authors also shed new light on many unexplored aspects of Van Gogh’s inner world: his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; his bouts of depression and mental illness; and the cloudy circumstances surrounding his death at the age of thirty-seven.
 
Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Praise for Van Gogh: The Life
 
“Magisterial.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“This generation’s definitive portrait of the great Dutch post-Impressionist.”—Time
 
“A tour de force . . . an enormous achievement . . . Reading his life story is like riding an endless roller coaster of delusional highs and lows. . . . [A] sweepingly authoritative, astonishingly textured book.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Marvelous . . . [Van Gogh] reads like a novel, full of suspense and intimate detail. . . . In beautiful prose, Naifeh and Smith argue convincingly for a subtler, more realistic evaluation of Van Gogh, and we all win.”—The Washington Post
 
“Brilliant . . . At once a model of scholarship and an emotive, pacy chunk of hagiography.”—The Daily Telegraph (London)
 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST • THE WALL STREET JOURNAL • SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE • NPR • THE ECONOMIST • NEWSDAY • BOOKREPORTER

Frequently Bought Together

Van Gogh: The Life + Penguin Classics Letters Of Vincent Van Gogh
Price For Both: CDN$ 32.85


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Review

The definitive biography for decades to come.”—Leo Jansen, curator, the Van Gogh Museum, and co-editor of Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Letters

“In their magisterial new biography, Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith provide a guided tour through the personal world and work of that Dutch painter, shining a bright light on the evolution of his art. . . . What [the authors] capture so powerfully is Van Gogh’s extraordinary will to learn, to persevere against the odds.”Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Captivating . . . Winners of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for their biography of Jackson Pollock, [Naifeh and Smith] bring a booming authorial voice and boundless ingenuity to the task and have written a thoroughly engaging account of the Dutch painter. Drawing on Van Gogh’s almost uniquely rich correspondence . . . the authors vividly reconstruct the intertwined stories of his life and his art, portraying him as a ‘victim of his own fanatic heart.’ . . . Their fine book has the potential not only to reinvigorate the broad base of popular interest that Van Gogh already enjoys but to introduce a whole new generation to one of art history’s most remarkable creative spirits.”Jonathan Lopez, The Wall Street Journal

“Could very well be the definitive biography . . . In it we get a much fuller view of Van Gogh, owing to the decade Naifeh and Smith spent on research to create this scholarly and spellbinding work. . . . How pleased we should be that [these authors] have rendered so exquisitely and respectfully Van Gogh’s short, intense, and wholly interesting life.”—Roberta Silman, The Boston Globe
 
“This generation’s definitive portrait of the great Dutch post-Impressionist . . . [The authors’] most important achievement is to produce a reckoning with Van Gogh’s occasional ‘madness’ that doesn’t lose sight of the lucidity and intelligence—the profound sanity—of his art.”—Richard Lacayo, Time
 
Brilliant . . . Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith are the big-game hunters of modern art history. . . . [Van Gogh] rushes along on a tide of research. . . . At once a model of scholarship and an emotive, pacy chunk of hagiography.”—Martin Herbert, The Daily Telegraph (London)

About the Author

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith are graduates of Harvard Law School. Mr. Naifeh, who has written for art periodicals and has lectured at numerous museums including the National Gallery of Art, studied art history at Princeton and did his graduate work at the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. Together they have written many books on art and other subjects, including four New York Times bestsellers. Their biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It also inspired the Academy Award–winning 2000 film Pollock starring Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden as well as John Updike’s novel, Seek My Face. Naifeh and Smith have been profiled in The New Yorker, The New York Times, USA Today, and People, and have appeared on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Charlie Rose, and the Today show.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece Feb. 11 2012
Format:Hardcover
This is an amazing book. It is big but I read every page. When Vincent died, I felt like I had lost a member of my family. I've finished the book. My days with Vincent are over. I will miss him!
Congratulations to the authors. I will be reading Pollock!
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a must if you care a little bit about Vincent Van Gogh. Not only it's almost exhaustively researched, using all the possible available sources (and the best, those from the Van Gogh Museum, original letters and such) but it's also a great, dramatic and full of surprises and novelties (which is an exceptionally feat, considering how much it was written on Vincent's life and work). If you want only one book in your library about Van Gogh, this is the one. (they don't pay me to advertise them). Especially the very detailed and precise fact narrating (in a pleasant, interesting and not too" scientifical" and " intellectualist" manner) of his more unknown periods (the first ones, Borinage, Drentha, etc), his relations with the parents, the father and mother (but allowing also for their side of the story to be seen: Vincent could be a pain in the arse, sometimes and his mental sickness is apparent a lot sooner than it's usually covened; I would say Borderline Personality Disorder combined with epilepsy, but that hazardous...Most interesting part, the so called "suicide" of Vincent, which the authors prove convincingly that, maybe, almost certainly, wasn't one. More like a stupid prank accident which Vincent assumed the consequances. He would have done it anyway, sooner or later...A great, great book...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Book on Van Gogh Nov. 26 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book goes into detail on Vincent's mental illness: he walked 30 to 60 miles a day to get rid of it, yet it didn't work. He did things on the spur of the moment, he pissed off his models and the communities he lived in. He was a 'baby' yet also very intelligent. He studied prints. He made his family unhappy; not because he was an artist, they were happy with that, but that he dressed shabbily, that he couldn't make it in the real world as an employee.

This book is very well written. Who are these guys? Great research. Lots of colour photos of art as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A life revealed Feb. 13 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book an exceptional read. I had not realized that Van Gogh had had intimate knowledge of the art world of his day. He was no outsider estranged from the scene of the day. This is a superb chronicle of a tormented genius struggling to express himself.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars Aug. 24 2014
Format:Hardcover
An honest biography, perhaps a bit over-long.
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