Van Gogh and Music: A Symphony in Blue and Yellow

Yale Univ. May 2018. 184p. tr. from Dutch by Diane Webb. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300228335. $35. FINE ARTS
Music and musical instruments are usually not present in the works of van Gogh, but music played a role in the artist's life and work. The use of musical terms, particularly symphony, is frequent in his letters to his brother, Theo, and in his attempts to explain his inclusion of them in titles and descriptions of his work. The link between the visible world and the ideal—the connection between sound and color expressed most emphatically in his late works—became an obsession, and the extreme use of intense yellows and blues to create his "symphony" seemed to drive him into another world. Was it the final expression of his deteriorating mental state or a different kind of vision, a view of the world only available to the palette of the artist? Dutch arts scholar Veldhorst (cultural studies, Radboud Univ., Nijmegen) explores the artist's early exposure to music, from psalms, hymns, and birdsongs to the operas of Richard Wagner in an effort to develop a new insight into his world.
VERDICT A compelling work opening up a new area of study of this challenging artist. Useful for examining the interweaving of all art forms and their impact on the creative process.
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