An insatiable reader, Vincent van Gogh found a source of inspiration as well as a safe haven from storms in books and devoured hundreds during his short life. The authors that captivated him include Dickens, Zola, Maupassant and the Goncourt brothers, whose pages he reread with passionate intensity, meditating on every line to the point of establishing a constant mental dialogue with the writer. Part of the energy and the creative drive that animate his painting drew vital sustenance precisely from thus irresistible passion. In any case, painting with the brush or with words was the same thing for Van Gogh, who shared with the great family of his favourites the precise ideal of art as something for everyone and that everyone must be able to understand.
Driven by the intuitive insight that Van Gogh’s life can be explored through the books he loved, Mariella Guzzoni displays great narrative flair in revealing previously unknown details concealed in the nooks and crannies of his art. From Still Life with a Bible to Woman Reading a Novel, the many works by the Dutch genius connected with books and reading are examined in a new light. In employing his letters, presented here in a new Italian translation, as the primary tool of investigation, the author paints a full picture of an artist fascinated not only by a number of recurrent themes but also and above all by the moral and intellectual stature of the writers he loved most.
Translated into five languages and richly illustrated, the essay encompasses both the great masterpieces and the minor works of Van Gogh, showing how the man, his work and his books are interwoven in an indivisible whole. As the artist himself said, “Books, reality and art are one thing for me.”