Greetings dear readers and friends – and a very Happy New Year! As they do in France, I send you all my best wishes (meilleurs voeux) for 2017.
What better way to start off the New Year than with a giveaway? Today I have the pleasure of giving away a copy of Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence by Martin Bailey. And let me tell you, this was a great read!
I had thought that perhaps Studio of the South would be a glossy, coffee-table type of book – full of gorgeous painting and helpful details, but perhaps hard to get to the real essence of Van Gogh in Provence. In fact, it was just the opposite.
I read Studio of the South from cover-to-cover, and some afternoons I found it almost impossible to put down. The book is beautifully narrated and reads more like a novel, a piece of authentic non-fiction that pulls the reader in and connects us to the pulse of Van Gogh’s artistic life in the South of France. All in all, it’s a fascinating story.
The book takes place mainly in the city of Arles, with a brief introduction to Van Gogh’s time in Paris, and his final days after his stay at the asylum in Saint Rémy de Provence. In Arles, Van Gogh rents a room in the Yellow House where he has an extremely productive period of creating some of his most memorable masterpieces. It is here that we find his famous Sunflower still-lifes, Haystacks, and Café Terrace at Night. Each work is described in chronological order, as we follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh’s life in Arles and the places around town that inspired his artwork. These subjects are sometimes simple, but vibrant landscapes, portraits of residents & acquaintances, and still-lifes from his bedroom in the Yellow House.
Woven throughout the book, we also get glimpses into Van Gogh’s daily life and state-of-mind. As is well-documented, he was a troubled soul, had a hard time making friends and true love eluded him his entire life. But beyond being a characterization that could be seen as somewhat depressing, the author’s thorough research into Van Gogh’s movements, and above all, his complicated relationship with his brother Theo, allows us to better understand what made the artist tick.
Even more surprising, amidst all this inner turmoil, Van Gogh was continuing to produce masterpieces with incredible speed.
He gets an artistic boost when fellow painter Gauguin joins him in his studio of the south. Gauguin set himself up at the Yellow House and the pair enjoyed a collaborative, albeit tumultuous relationship. Some of the more famous works from this period include the Alyscamps series (both artists), The Arlésienne (Van Gogh), and The Night Café (Gauguin).
The duo also find themselves pursuing some the “darker” pleasures of the day in their frequent visits to brothels which become immortalized in their work. And it is in one of these brothels, on the “Street of the Kind Girls”, where Van Gogh’s infamous “ear incident” comes to a troubling conclusion.
Gauguin eventually leaves Arles and Van Gogh’s troubles escalate; although he is still able to produce amazingly-optimistic paintings which give little clue to his day-to-day trials and manage to capture all that’s glorious, and inspiring, about Provence.
If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence, just leave a comment below and tell us what inspires you most about Provence.
A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, January 15th (12pm Eastern Standard Time) using random.org.
Good luck chers amis!
*And if you’re interested in purchasing Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence, please visit the book’s page on Amazon.