Book Review: "Vincent Van Gogh" by Marc Edo Tralbaut


by Cynthia Rodriguez


by Marc Edo Tralbaut

Years ago I was inspired to make a mold of my ear and slap it on a piece of cardboard with a splash of red paint. Thus was my first tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. The overall reaction I recieved was, needless to say, less than enthusiastic and understanding. "That's disgusting!", "What the hell is that?", "What's wrong with you?" This heartwarming response to my sincere gesture to one of my all time favorite art heroes made me truly realize two things: 1- Vincent was right all along, people just don't understand. 2- Everybody's a critic.

Almost a decade ago there was a little used book shop on the main street in town that lasted about eight months. My then girlfriend happened to walk in one day, and stumbled across a huge, studio book on Van Gogh. This book, it turns out, worth over forty bucks, she practically stole it for a mere twelve dollars, and gave it as a gift, to me. Since then, it's been moved around a lot, mostly sitting around my art studio collecting quite a distinct moldy, dusty, basementy, type of scent. For some reason lately, I was moved enough, which I haven't been since MY "ear" incident, to dive once again into the world of Vincent. I knew this time, he would be in my life for good, and there would be no turning back...

This book has to be the most comprehensive book ever written on Van Gogh, and from what I understand Marc Edo Tralbaut is supposed to be the biggest authority on the artist. It was first published in 1969, at a time when certain people in Vincent's life were still alive. Of course, they were all about 100 years old when interviewed by Tralbaut, even still, it's amazing to hear first hand accounts of their stories regarding their interaction with the actual legend.

That combined with a preface written by Van Gogh's own nephew, name sake, and President of the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation makes this a truly unique literary masterpiece that can never be duplicated in any way.

This treasure also contains many other jewels for the hard-core Van Gogh fanatic. Of course, one being a large, studio book it contains tons of great pictures of his work, photographs, sketches, and plenty more illustrating his upbringing and travels. I'm not kidding when I say this book is big. It can probably be registered as a lethal weapon in most states.

Especially from an artist's perspective, as part of the illustrated segment of the book, I found it particularly delightful that they included real photographs of places where Van Gogh placed his easel to paint certain works of art. They position them side by side so you can see the actual locations.

Another plus is all throughout the book, you can read Vincent's own words through his letters to his brother Theo, whom apparently he used as a living journal. You gain a true appreciation of Van Gogh's sister-in-law, Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger and Vincent's nephew for saving and preserving all the correspondence that guides us into who the artist was.

The book takes you on a journey from his childhood to his inevitable final act, and all the beauty he created in between. For two weeks while absorbing his entire life, I dreaded reading the last chapter, knowing what was coming, and experienced my own mourning when I was done.

Many eye opening myth busters are also included, such as about the whole ear thing, about his three kinds of "crazy", among others. He apparently really was one of the most missunderstood of our time.

I've been so touched by this book I've decided to do my first solo art exhibit in almost five years. I'm calling it "Starry Nights In Allentown: A Tribute To Vincent Van Gogh", in which I am creating modern day, urban interpretations of his paintings. This is set for the end of February of 2010.

This "mad man" genius I have accepted as my Guardian Angel. This book has changed my life. Artistically and personally. I've always felt a connection but now more than ever doing my own independent study has really opened up a whole new world for me. It was more than just reading a book, it was a destination.


by Cynthia Rodriguez


by Ingrid Schaffner

Go to your local museum or certain galleries and you'll most likely find at least one of the "Essential" books on some artist. Apparently this series was created some time ago featuring a number of famous artists for people to get their favorite artist in a nut shell.

One of my fellow Book Sluts, (book club friend), lent it to me during our last meeting, seeing that I was still on the high of my Vincent book.

In one night, this book immediately followed my above Van Gogh big book experience so of course it felt like cliff notes for that one. I thought to myself, "Oh, how cute, it's like a 'mini-me' of the one I just read." After lugging the above noted book all over the place, this one was like carrying a little feather around.

For all art fans out there, who would like to know more about your favorites artists but don't necessarily need or want an entire 101 course on them, this series is for you.

What I liked about this particular one on Van Gogh was that it actually includes a few pictures of his work my big book doesn't, which at first I found hard to believe. I've already used it for one of my own pieces.

As I go through more "Essential" books from the series, I'll get into more of it's features that come with each book.

This series is also a good way to know which artist you really relate or connect to, personally or artistically, which can help you decide if you would like to study a particular one further.

You never know. One of these little, portable, books can definitely lead to bigger, and better things later on.

(SIDENOTE: A little announcement. I'll be guest blogging on other sites now as well as being a "regular" here. I'll post which ones they are on my staff profile at Lesbiatopia.)

1 comment:

Alexander Barnett said...

Ms. Rodriquez, you are absolutely right. Marc Tralbaut's book is probably the finest ever written on van Gogh and I've read them all. Since you obviously adore Vincent's work, I suggest you read the three volumes of Vincent's letters. Nothing can match this. It was my major source of inspiration and information for my film, 'THE EYES OF VAN GOGH', which was recently released.Thanks again for appreciating Vincent's work and his character.