Starry starry night of crazed genius

This is my review of The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles by Martin Gayford.

I thoroughly enjoyed this biography, which conveyed very clearly Van Gogh's tortured personality, with all the classic symptoms of manic-depression, which nevertheless seemed crucial to his genius – the striking use of colour and brushstrokes, and the disregard for the conventions of art. If modern mood-stabilising drugs had been available, he would probably have been a mediocre artist, if he had painted at all. I had not realised how prolific he was, creating a relatively large number of paintings in barely a decade. Sadly, these only began to sell after his death, so much of his life was spent worrying about money, and feeling frustrated by his inadequacy, since if others did not recognise his talent perhaps it did not exist.

His distinctive painting style is analysed in detail, again with great clarity, as is the very different style of his sometime friend Gauguin. The intriguing relationship between the two is also brought out – including the brief period in which Van Gogh mutilated himself after a rift between them, and Gauguin was initially accused of attempted murder on his return to their shared house in Provence.

As other readers have complained, my only criticism is the poor quality of the illustrations, particularly where they are black and white versions of paintings by two artists for whom colour was an essential factor.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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