cover image Van Gogh: A Power Seething

Van Gogh: A Power Seething

Julian Bell. Amazon/New Harvest, $20 (176p) ISBN 978-0-544-34373-3

In the sixth installment of New Harvest’s Icons series, painter and author Bell (Mirror of the World) brings his insight as a fellow artist to the life and work of Vincent van Gogh in a condensed, accessible primer on the renowned artist. Bell traces Van Gogh’s shiftless youth from apprenticeship at his uncle’s art emporium, a failed attempt at priesthood, and his move to Paris and discovery of pointillism, to his subsequent mental breakdown, the severing of his ear, the creation of The Starry Night while institutionalized, and his suicide. Providing astute commentary on Van Gogh’s work, Bell declares the early Miners in the Snow “earnestly ambitious,” and the more accomplished painting Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes a “single resounding chord of yellow played out on various vegetal instruments.” He also illuminates the artist’s famously prickly personality, the grumbling and begging of money from his long-suffering brother Theo, as well as excerpts from letters exhibiting a deep and poetic sensibility. For a more exhaustive account, as the author notes, there are plenty of sources. This quick but thorough read provides a fulfilling overview of the artist. [em](Jan.) [/em]