Literature

5 Books About Van Gogh You Have to Read

Errika Gerakiti 21 May 2020 min Read

Vincent van Gogh is one of those artists whose reputation precedes them. The tormented child of the art, the cursed artist, the madman, the genius, the weird, or the eccentric are only a few of the labels that describe him. Today, Van Gogh is one of the most famous and most loved painters worldwide. His impact on art is huge. Here, we suggest five books about Van Gogh. These are great reads if you are interested in learning about the personal life of the artist, but also how he viewed his life and his artistic evolution.

1. The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles

From October to December 1888, Van Gogh and Gauguin lived under the same roof in Arles, a French suburb. They had an exceptionally creative time together. They gave each other feedback and made some of their most distinguished works. However, Van Gogh bent under the pressure of cohabitation, and the crisis of his mental illness became very severe. He fought with Gauguin which is how he came to mutilating himself.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Yellow House (The Street), September 1888, Credits: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).
Vincent van Gogh, The Yellow House (The Street), September 1888, Credits: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

The author of this book is Martin Gayford, who is a known art critic. One might expect that he would use stilted language, but that is not the case. The Yellow House is pure literature. It gets inside Van Gogh’s psyche and makes you understand all about his state of mind. If you read this book, you will either fall in love with Van Gogh, or you will want to hug him and tell him that he’s not alone. In our opinion, it is one of the best books about Van Gogh.

You can check this book here.

Cover of the current edition of the book. Books about Van Gogh
Books about Van Gogh: Cover of the current edition of the book, The Yellow House by Martin Gayford.

2. The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

What is a better way to learn about Van Gogh than reading his personal letters? This next book that we recommend is a selection of them. The letters narrate his personal story and artistic evolution. You will read about his relationship with religion, his unsuccessful effort to find love, and how he coped with the attacks of his mental illness. Aside from the popular belief that Van Gogh was a madman, this book proves he had great emotional and spiritual depth.

Also, the Penguin Classics’ edition links the letters to biographical details and gives insights to the events of his life. It is a very interesting book drawing in every art historian and everyone who loves Van Gogh.

You can check this book here.

Cover of the current edition. Books about Van Gogh
Cover of the current edition of the collection of letters, The Letters of van Gogh, compiled and published by Penguin.

3. Van Gogh: Complete Works

Taschen is famous for its artistic series, and this book is a great addition. It is a catalog of Van Gogh’s 871 paintings, all in color! It also provides a detailed monograph on his life. In addition, it shows how the artist was so much more than his depression and anxiety and how he struggled for recognition.

You can check this catalogue here.

Cover of the current edition. Books about Van Gogh
Cover of the current edition Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings, Ed. Walther and Metzger, Pub. Taschen.

4. Vincent

Barbara Stok created a graphic novel that narrates Van Gogh’s life in Arles. The illustrations are beautiful and vivid; however, the art is sometimes shocking when depicting his mental illness. Nevertheless, it is moving and will bring you to tears.

You can check this graphic novel here.

Cover of the graphic novel.
Cover of the graphic novel, Vincent by Barbara Stok.

5. Van Gogh: The Life

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith cooperated closely with the Van Gogh Museum for this book. Van Gogh: The Life brings to light previously unknown information about the artist’s life, his relationship with his brother Theo, and the mysterious circumstances under which he committed suicide. In addition, the book is a New York Times bestseller and nominated one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the BookReporter.

You can check this book here.

Cover of the current edition.
Cover of the current edition, Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.


In May, we collaborate with the Van Gogh Museum! Don’t forget to scroll our DailyArt App and see the featured pieces!


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