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Vincent's Books

Van Gogh and the Writers Who Inspired Him

Mariella Guzzoni


A new study of Van Gogh’s passion for books, taking the reader on an artistic-literary journey through Vincent’s favourite authors and works of literature

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Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) was famously driven by his passion for God, for art – and for books. Vincent’s life with books is examined here chapter by chapter, from his early adulthood, when he considered becoming a pastor, to his decision to be a painter, to the end of his life. He moved from Holland to Paris to Provence; at each moment, ideas he encountered in books defined and guided his thoughts and his life. Vincent’s letters to his brother refer to at least 200 authors. Books and readers – whether dreaming or deeply absorbed – are frequent subjects of his paintings.

Vincent not only read fiction, he also knew many works of art from detailed descriptions and illustrations in monographs, biographies and museum guides. Always keeping up to date, he never missed the latest literary and artistic magazines. This thought-provoking and original study takes the reader on an artistic-literary journey through Vincent’s discoveries, his favourite authors and best-loved books, revealing a continuous dialogue between his own work, the artists and the authors who inspired him, and giving life to his comment: ‘Books and reality and art are the same kind of thing for me.’

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'A detailed (and beautifully written) account of what the artist read - and how it influenced his art'
The Art Newspaper

'A fascinating study of Van Gogh’s creative inspiration'
Art Society Magazine

'Find[s] a fresh side to Vincent van Gogh'
The New European

Morning Star

'Covers all aspects of Vincent as a reader, book owner and maker of art featuring books and readers. The author guides readers through these aspects with a deft touch and thorough knowledge. This will become an essential book for anyone seeking detailed understanding of Vincent Van Gogh’s art and thought'

'A finely produced life of Van Gogh ... a fascinating introduction to a complex and wondrous creative life. Yes, it is the art that matters, but here, more than ever, we learn more to understand something of the man behind the art'
The Arts Desk

'laser-focused on the man as a lifelong devourer of novels, poetry and art criticism in four languages, from Victorian tales such as 'A Christmas Carol', to French romans by the likes of Victor Hugo'
World of Interiors

'Fascinating and well researched'
Artists & Illustrators

'Guzzoni’s text is good at explaining what he read, and also why it appealed to him'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 232 pp

Publication date: 2 July 2020

ISBN: 9780500094129

Contents List

Introduction • 1. From Preacher to Painter • 2. Art and Life • 3. Peasant Painter • 4. The City of Light • 5. In Provence • 6. Vincent and the Reader • 7. Vincent: A Reader for All Times

About the Author

Mariella Guzzoni is an independent scholar and translator living in Bergamo. She has been collecting editions of the books that Vincent van Gogh read and loved for many years, and curated the exhibition ‘Van Gogh’s Passion for Books’ at the Sormani Library, Milan, in 2015.