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An Amazing Van Gogh book that brings his most famous paintings to life

Lust For Life by the author Irving Stone is a wonderful art historical fiction book about the fascinating and difficult life of the post-impressionism painter Vincent Willem van Gogh.

The novel covers the devastatingly sad story of Vincent Van Gogh’s life and details about the background of some of his most famous paintings. The chapter about Van Gogh working on and completing the painting “The Potato Eaters” is a wonderful chapter!

Painting by Van Gogh - Potato Eaters, Nuenen, April 1885
Painting by Van Gogh-Potato Eaters

Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Ironically, today the art world hails this Dutch artist as one of the greatest post-Impressionists of modern times. And yet, Van Gogh lived a life of poverty and loneliness. He carried with him a huge sense of failure throughout his entire life.

Van Gogh Saw Beauty where Others saw Ugliness

Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, worked as an art dealer in an affluent art gallery in Paris during the Post-Impressionism era. Yet his was unable to sell Vincent’s paintings.

Van Gogh’s paintings were not visually appealing as they were different to the traditional art of the time. Vincent Van Gogh also preferred to paint peasants at work, in their working clothes & in their humble homes. He had no interest in painting portraits of the rich, which had a lucrative market in those times. Van Gogh believed that the world of the downtrodden was worthy of painting.

“First, we think all truth is beautiful, no matter how hideous its face may seem. … We put character above ugliness, pain above prettiness and hard, crude reality above all the wealth in France…. We think the prostitute is as good as the countess, the concierge as good as the general, the peasant as good as the cabinet minister, for they all fit into the pattern of nature and are woven into the design of life!” 

Irving StoneLust for Life

Vincent Van Gogh Painting of Sorrowing old man
Vincent Van Gogh Painting / Painted in Saint Remy 1890

Theo and Vincent’s Incredible Relationship

This beautiful book portrays the special relationship between the two Van Gogh brothers. Throughout the book we read how Theo was the only person in the world who believed in Vincent’s artistic potential. He also loved Vincent unconditionally. Theo loved his brother so much that even named his first born son after Vincent.

Theo provided Vincent with unwavering financial support for an entire decade so that his brother could dedicate his time solely to painting. He also provided Vincent with moral support and encouraged him to continue to paint and create.

The incredible bond between the two brothers is even more evident when Theo dies six months after Vincent shoots himself in Auvers-sur-Oise . It seems that without Theo there would have been no Vincent and without Vincent there could be no Theo.

Portrait of Theo Van Gogh by Vincent Van Gogh
Portrait of Theo Van Gogh by Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh wanted to portray the working class people and tell their story

This beautiful quote in the book describes what Vincent Van Gogh was trying to achieve when he painted the farming peasants:

“When I paint a peasant labouring in the field, I want people to feel the peasant flowing down into the soil, just as the corn does, and the soil flowing up into the peasant. I want them to feel the sun pouring into the peasant, into the field, the corn, the plough, and the horses, just as they all pour back into the sun. When you begin to feel the universal rhythm in which everything on earth moves, you begin to understand life….”

Vincent was trying to portray much more than what he could see. His sensitivity towards people helped him to feel and see things that most of us ignore.

Peasants in Nuenen - Van Gogh Painting
Farmers planting Potatoes in Nuenen – Van Gogh Painting

The Wise & Beautiful Words of Maya

In this book, Vincent encounters a fictitious Maya during one of his mental breakdowns. She says to him the following:

“…After you are gone, Vincent, the world will understand what you have tried to say. The canvases that today you cannot sell for a hundred francs will one day sell for a million. Ah, you smile, but I tell you it is true. Your pictures will hang in the museums of Amsterdam and The Hague, in Paris and Dresden, Munich and Berlin, Moscow and New York, Your pictures will be priceless, because there will be none for sale. Books will be written about your art, Vincent, novels and plays built around your life. Wherever two men come together who love paintings, there the name of Vincent Van Gogh will be sacred…”

I am not sure if it was the author’s intention, but Maya seems be a metaphor for the future art world. Sadly, the art world only started to appreciate Van Gogh’s magnificent paintings after his death.

A Lust for Life is an excellent book for all fans of Vincent Van Gogh. It is also a MUST for those who love art historical fiction stories.

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