Vincent and Theo Deborah Heiligman's young adult biography Vincent and Theo draws on the hundreds of letters that passed between the Van Gogh brothers. There are various editions of Vincent's letters, including a 2009 version endorsed by the Van Gogh Museum that contains all Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. The letters between Theo and his wife, Johanna, are also available in translation as Brief Happiness (1999), and Jo left a short memoir of Vincent.

Here are four more books, not limited to the young adult genre, that allow for further reflection and/or speculation about Vincent van Gogh's career and character.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick

SunflowersA young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles, France, to discover she is being sketched by a red-haired man in a yellow straw hat. This is the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh, and their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable relationship. He arrives at their first assignation with a bouquet of wildflowers and a request to paint her, and before long a deep, intense attachment grows between them. But Vincent is as enslaved to the demons of his own mind as Rachel is to those of her past, and he soon makes a strange and violent decision.

Let Me Tell You about a Man I KnewLet Me Tell You about a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

This historical novel centers on the year that Vincent Van Gogh spent at the French mental hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole after he cut off his ear (1889–90). It is told, however, from the perspective of the asylum warden's wife, Jeanne Trabuc. Now 55 and with three grown sons, Jeanne fears that life's adventures and sensual pleasures are over for her. Yet a friendship with this volatile new Dutchman makes her think she might reclaim an outlook of excited anticipation. This is a compelling picture of women's circumscribed lives in the late nineteenth century, perfect for readers of Tracy Chevalier's The Virgin Blue and Barbara Vreeland's Lisette's List.
VincentVincent by Barbara Stok

This biography is in the form of a graphic novel. It focuses on the time Van Gogh spent in the south of France. He settled in Arles, staying in a hotel, and then in a large rental house he hoped to turn into an artists' colony; he temporarily attracted Paul Gauguin before driving him away with his workaholic ways and his temper. In letters to Theo back in Paris, Van Gogh details his progress and tells of his fondness for the Provence scenery. Stok depicts Van Gogh as a misunderstood genius and captures the warm colors of the French countryside.
Touched with FireTouched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison

The volatile intensity associated with the artistic temperament was once thought to be a symptom of genius or eccentricity peculiar to artists, writers, and musicians. Jamison's work, based on her study as a clinical psychologist and researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists subject to exalted highs and despairing lows were in fact engaged in a struggle with clinically identifiable manic-depressive illness. She presents proof of the biological foundations of this disease and applies what is known about the illness to the lives and work of some of the world's greatest artists, including Lord Byron, Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf.

This article first ran as the "Beyond the Book" feature for Deborah Heiligman's Vincent and Theo. Every time BookBrowse reviews a book we go "beyond the book" to explore a related topic, such as this article by Rebecca Foster. Most of these articles are only available to our members, but at any given time, a sampling can be found on our homepage and, from time to time, we reprint one in this blog.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Discuss on Facebook