Van Gogh is the most famous artist in the world, yet our understanding of his life is full of contradictions. Art historians, filmmakers, journalists, psychologists, and conspiracy theorists have offered theories on his life and work, yet their views are often poles apart. Van Gogh has been described as a suffering genius; a nature-loving innocent; a man of violence, a danger to himself and others; the embodiment of peace and compassion; a religious fanatic; a Marxist; a madman; a cultural commodity; and an investment opportunity. Where does the truth lie and the myth begin?
This original and wide-ranging book provokes new questions about how we see his life and work. Divided into the recurring themes that run through the artist’s life and legacy, this book presents a collage of facts and “counterfacts” about the artist, dating from his lifetime until now, from a wide field of sources: fellow artists, friends and family, doctors and psychoanalysts, actors and writers, theorists, crackpots, and scholars. Conflicting statements go hand in hand with an unconventional curation of images: featuring postcards of locations associated with the artist, photographs of a fraudster’s legal trial, a children’s toy, a bottle label, and a rusty revolver.
Turnbull presents a kaleidoscope of fact and fiction about the world’s most discussed artist—sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending, always revealing—giving readers new insights into the artist, his work, and his legacy. Van Gogh himself would be amazed not only to see what people have said about him, but also to grasp the global phenomenon that he has become. A must-have for art lovers and museumgoers, this book invites all readers familiar with Van Gogh to challenge received ideas about the man and his work.
Alan Turnbull is a practicing artist who lectured in painting and printmaking at Newcastle University and numerous art schools.