Thursday, September 14, 2017

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Cover image for Vincent and Theo : the Van Gogh brothers
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers
By Deborah Heiligman
Godwin Books, 2017, 454 pages, Young Adult Non-Fiction

The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Heiligman draws on the letters Vincent and Theo exchanged during Vincent’s lifetime to weave a tale of two lives intertwined as Theo supported Vincent's struggles to find his path in life.

I came away from reading this book with the realization that you can’t really understand Vincent Van Gogh without also knowing his brother Theo. Vincent started painting rather late in life, after a few other failed career attempts, and as an art dealer, it was Theo who encouraged Vincent in his passion and pushed him to aim higher. Theo was Vincent’s harshest critic, and biggest fan.

Heiligman doesn’t shy away from discussing hard topics like Vincent’s mental illness and his passionate struggle with religion. Despite its length, this book felt like a faster read since it’s cut up in small sections and written for a young adult audience. A color insert with some of Vincent’s most famous paintings came in useful as well since Vincent took his subjects from everyday life.

Heiligman’s interesting perspective on the life of Vincent Van Gogh made me want to read another of her books: Charles and Emma, which is the story of Charles and Emma Darwin. I’m also curious to see what interesting duo she’ll write about next.


1 comment:

ACS said...

I’ve known for a long time that Vincent Van Gogh was quite eccentric (the story of him purportedly cutting off his own ear always stood out to me), but I knew very little about his life and relationships. I found this biography to be enlightening, easily digestible, and really appreciated the inclusion of quotes from their personal letters. I’ve gained a new appreciation for Vincent’s works, and will never look at them in the same way again, and especially not without thinking of Theo. This book is easy for me to recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the famous painter, or simply looking for a good biography. It really is a wonderful and fascinating history.