In Search of Van Gogh: Capturing the Life of the Artist Through Photographs and Paintings

Harper Design. Aug. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780063085176. $37.50. FINE ARTS
This English translation of Uffizi art historian Fossi’s Sulle tracce di Van Gogh: un viaggio sui luoghi dell’arte contains short, conversational narratives akin to well-crafted curatorial wall labels that provide context for Van Gogh’s artworks while contrasting archival and new photos of his various domiciles. During his short life, Van Gogh moved 37 times to 20 different places in four countries while creating hundreds of works, some of which he documented religiously in family correspondence. Excerpts from letters (as well as related resources) abound here, and Fossi’s engaging thematic analyses on paint-yellow pages round out this attractive art travelogue. At times, it highlights the sensational or novel: stolen artwork and a fascinating theory that Van Gogh’s presumed knowledge of astronomy informed his famous star paintings. The backmatter (including maps and indexes) adds gravitas. The author, photographers, and designers clearly bring their talents and hearts to this project.
VERDICT With this compact trove of contemporary photographs juxtaposed with Van Gogh’s artworks, homes, and friendly commentary, the intensity of the artist’s life will go down more easily. Van Gogh fans will enjoy walking in his footsteps, and it will surely inform new audiences as well.
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