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Vincent Van Gogh The Letters Six Volume Set Slipcased Hardcover – Oct 13 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2500 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson; annotated edition edition (Oct. 13 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500238650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500238653
  • Product Dimensions: 31.1 x 25.7 x 38.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 15 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #786,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


The most important art publication of 2009, if not of the decade. — Financial Times

This could be the best autobiography of an artist yet to appear anywhere. — The Economist

Has a depth that would not exist were this a collection of only images or only words. This could be the best autobiography of an artist yet to appear anywhere. — The Economist

A massive work of scholarship as well as a visual delight. — Sunday Telegraph [UK]

Twenty years worth of his letters, published in a spectacular illustrated six-volume edition are the longest, warmest, most attentive account of an artist’s life seen from the inside that has ever been. — New Yorker

The greatest cache of writing about art left behind by any artist. Intense, relentless, gossipy, utterly fascinating. — The Sunday Times [London]

With his words and visions united in all their blazing intensity, this momentous edition at last completes the palette of Vincent's double art. — The Independent [UK]

It is certainly one of the best art books I’ve ever read and the only one I would truly say today, at this moment, is truly indispensable — Modern Painters

With the publication of this monumental six-volume edition of his letters, Vincent van Gogh is fully revealed as a supreme writer-painter…. This collection is definitive. — ARTnews

A richly annotated and illustrated six-volume compendium.... Each letter is newly transcribed, painstakingly retranslated without adornment or amendment, and in some case redated in accordance with new research. — The Wall Street Journal

A fabulous six-volume hardcover edition of the artist’s complete surviving correspondence…. They are like snapshots of his creative process, and they are all produced in the six volumes, along with family photographs, maps of the artist’s whereabouts from year to year, and reproductions of art, by himself and others, that he refers to in the letters…. Worth every penny and hard-to-lift pound. — New York Times

A compelling chronicle of the artist’s innermost thoughts…. Art enthusiasts can ponder the deep words and complicated constructions of each and every letter, including van Gogh’s final testament, which was found in his pocket the day he shot himself in the chest and consequently dies two days later…. Beyond the aesthetic elegance of each handwritten letter lies the documented expression of one of the world’s most loved artists. In van Gogh’s world penmanship was a virtue, words were elocuted with care and sentences, skillfully structured.  The Letters provide a unique glimpse into another era and another time. — Zink

About the Author

Hans Luijten is Curator of Research at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa175cc90) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa174f3a8) out of 5 stars a modest genius Nov. 26 2009
By H. H. Verveer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I would like to point out, to begin with, that this review concerns the 2009 Dutch language edition, which appeared a few weeks earlier than the French and English ones. Van Gogh's letters have always drawn attention. Emile Bernard started publishing letters in France in 1893, Cassirer did the same in Germany 10 years later, first in a magazine, in 1906 also in book form. Three volumes of letters to his brother were published in book form in 1914 by Theo's widow, Jo van Gogh-Bonger. But the edition from which later ones descend, was published in Holland between 1952 and 1954. It contained some 650 letters, all of them published in the original language in which they were written, 6 in English, about 300 in French, and the rest in Dutch. In 1990 in Holland there was published a 4-volume Dutch language cloth edition, normal book size, in sunflower yellow of the collected letters of Vincent Van Gogh. The edition counted 2254 pages and 908 letters, with French and English letters translated. As far as I know these volumes have never been published in English or any other language. The edition showed all the sketches mentioned in the text. But although heavily annotated, many things mentioned in the letters remained obscure, while the chronology was sometimes dubious.
Now, in the beginning October 2009, has appeared, in Dutch, French and English a new 6 volume edition which contains 902 letters, 819 by Van Gogh himself, of which 658 to Theo, plus 25 so called documents, which consist of letters that remained unfinished, incomplete or were never sent. It has been estimated that about 290 letters written by Van Gogh are missing, and that he must have received another 550 that have been lost as well; which means that there must have existed a grand total of about 1750 letters, sent as well as received by him. The new edition publishes 819 letters written by Van Gogh himself, and 39 left of the many ones written by his brother Theo - all except two dating from the last two years - and by other artists, like Gauguin (16), in total 83. The large format edition is extensively annotated, printed on great looking paper, and shows literally everything mentioned in the letters itself, every painting, every sketch, every scribble, (always in full color if available), and that on the same pages as the letters themselves, which saves a lot of leafing. It explains every name mentioned. I bought the books in Amsterdam and had to carry home 15 slipcased kilos. Volume six contains no letters, but extensive essays on the translations, on the genealogy of the family Van Gogh, a list of correspondents, a 12 page biography, a 10 page chronology, a list of technical terms, a bibliography, and (very useful) 25 maps of places where Van Gogh lived or stayed. Finally there is a 20 page list of all the works by Van Gogh mentioned in the letters, a separate 20 page list of all the sketches, and a 36 page register of works by other artists (painters, writers, etc), and finally registers of places, and persons. The layout looks wonderful, and was made by Wim Crouwel, who is an excellent Dutch designer.
Some minor gripes? Yes. Like I said, Van Gogh wrote 6 of his letters in English, and more than 300 in French (which he started doing the minute he arrived in Paris in February 1886), and I was sorry to see that the originals had not been included in the Dutch language edition. The only other quibble I had is the rather cheap looking carton (paperboard) exterior of the books. For the price I paid (325 euros, after January 395 euros) I would have preferred linen.
Complete and expensive as it is, this may not be everyone's cup of tea, especially since the complete edition will be available for free on internet. Yet, for people interested in Van Gogh this edition is of course a must-have. Weird as he is now and then, a zealot and a preacher if ever there was one, irritating in his strong opinions, always trying to convert, and convince others of his personal ideas, and one who must in modern eyes have had something of a tramp, covering enormous distances on foot, and not being very particular about his personal hygiene, always craving for attention and admiration, but also utterly modest and heartwarmingly sympathetic, called to painting late in life, never satisfied with what he is doing, always telling Theo that his paintings are not yet finished, he is also a great writer, who without practically any schooling wrote a very vivid Dutch, fluent French and good English. Naïve and confused as he sometimes is, he can also be quite shrewd. It is my belief that Van Gogh's letters will always remain a fascinating artists biography, which are on a par with his paintings. And although he may, in time to come, lose something of the reputation as a painter he is enjoying now, I am convinced that the letters will always remain a great document humain, just like those of Flaubert, or Casanova's Memoires, albeit of course in a very different way. A lot of money, certainly, but well spent.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa174f474) out of 5 stars The best Christmas gift I've ever received (from myself) Dec 7 2009
By H. Kennedy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A spectacular production on every level: illustrations, text, translation, packaging, the whole nine yards, or should I say the whole 600 bucks. Like every truly great book, this is a time machine to another place and another mind. I see myself in 30 years, retired, poring over and over this book with a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog curled up beside me.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa174533c) out of 5 stars Very Comprehensive Series May 29 2012
By LovesManolos - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Well worth the price, this is a very comprehensive, well-bound, beautifully printed and annotated series. Even the page layouts are impressive. These books come in a nice hardcover "case" for easy transport. Be warned: these are quite heavy so those of you with bad backs should not attempt to carry them all at once. A must have for any true Van Gogh lover. Ik hou van Gogh!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1741fcc) out of 5 stars Pricey -- and can be read for free online Oct. 11 2014
By Miranda Cassini - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The recent translation of Van Gogh's letters is astonishing! And I'm sure the price reflects the quality and breadth of research and production effort that went into this six-volume set.

But shortly after I bought the set, I discovered that the whole shebang is available online! What's more, the online edition is constantly being revised and updated with corrections and amplifications, and it's so much easier to search on key terms online than to work with an index and a multitude of heavy hardcover volumes!

I still enjoy the pleasure of browsing print editions, especially art books like this superb set. I'm not going to resell my set. But anyone who is hankering to read the letters and who can't afford the set, your happiness can be found at or perhaps on the used books market.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa174f258) out of 5 stars Vincent Van Gogh The letters May 2 2010
By Agha S. Saleem - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I recieved this set of 6 volumes about 2 weeks ago.I have been attempting to read the first volume.It is an incredible set.I have been a fan of Van Gogh since I read Lust for Life when I was 20.Even after 29 years I am fascinated and teary-eyed about his passion for art.I started reading his letters to understand the turmoil and passion and thinking behind the artist who lived a very short time.I recently obtained Taschen's Van Gogh Complete paintings which is very complimentary to his letters.
The print of the Letters is small but the set is very complete.If you are interested in an intense study of an artist,this set is worth it's price.I have not reviewed the cd that comes with the set.