Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Michael Bowen & r & The Yellow House by Martin Gayford & r & & r & "The sadness will last forever": Vincent Van Gogh's final words, spoken after he'd shot himself in the chest. Just two years before, having obsessed about creating a "Studio of the South," this tactless, lonely man -- 35, bipolar, bursting with creativity -- had finally persuaded Paul Gauguin, a rough-and-tumble former sailor with an estranged wife and kids, to create a dual atelier in southern France.





Subtitled "Van Gogh, Gauguin and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles," Martin Gayford's The Yellow House demonstrates both the strengths and the weaknesses of academic research. In this week-by-week chronicle of the two artists' lives, frequent concerns include coffee, tobacco, absinthe and "hygienic excursions" to the local brothels. But sometimes Gayford just seems to be emptying his notebook. The contents of the roommates' kitchen cabinets, autumn flooding in Provence, the local gendarmes' distrust of those two crazy painters -- Gayford can tell you all these things, but not why they matter.





On the other hand, it's fascinating to watch Vincent and Gauguin simultaneously paint the same subjects -- but from slightly different angles and with markedly different goals. Gauguin tended to abstract from what he saw; in contrast, "Vincent" (Gauguin didn't trouble himself with Dutch surnames) needed to paint what he was seeing at that moment, not work from sketches or from memory. Yet ironically, the wild wallpaper of Vincent's "La Berceuse" heralded the move toward the abstract in the art of Henri Matisse and others. (While the endpapers burst with yellow sunflowers, the other reproductions are, sadly, in black and white.)





While Vincent's bipolar upswings gave him great optimism, Gayford's conclusion creates page-turning suspense by leading up to one of Vincent's most depressive episodes. In a triumph of the researcher's eye for detail and informed speculation, Gayford interprets the ear-slicing as a mixture of religious mania (Vincent had been a preacher in his youth) operating on the Garden of Gethsemane story, a novel by Emile Zola, and the details of a Jack the Ripper crime scene. Vincent's presentation of his severed ear to a local prostitute was, in Gayford's view, a ritual of self-mortification, an attempt at being forgiven. Vincent was trying to escape his sadness.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Game Changer
  • Game Changer

    Since Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • In Contempt
  • In Contempt

    A Spokane judge rules that the mental health system has willfully failed to follow evaluation deadlines
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Never Again
  • Never Again

    Washington state lawmakers push reforms after last July's murder-suicide; plus, Spokane's police ombudsman is leaving
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Yule Sing Your Eye Out!

Yule Sing Your Eye Out! @ Garland Theater

Sat., Dec. 20, 5 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Let Us Breathe

    Spokane joins national protests over the failure to indict white officers for killing black civilians
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • Screw Big Cities

    A mid-sized manifesto
    • Dec 3, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation