It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am an obsessive-compulsive book-buyer and could probably use a twelve-step program. The arrival of my birthday last week and the resumption of regular paychecks as the academic year began meant a flurry of Amazon activity and multiple visits from the nice UPS man. My Van Gogh library got a particular boost with two new books that were released this week...
Bogomila Welsh-Ovacharov, "Van Gogh in Provence and Auvers" (Universe 2008): This is actually a reprinting of an older volume that had been out of print for a while. A fairly large coffeetable-type volume with text written by one of the top van Gogh scholars, this is a fabulous addition to my VvG shelves. The layout is handsome, the illustration quality top-notch. I love the inclusion of illustrations of vintage postcards from Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers-sur-Oise, some of which I'd seen before, some I had not. Vintage photographs of some of the people Vincent knew, including Dr. Félix Rey, the postman Joseph Roulin, and Roulin's wife Augustine, are also featured. This is not a 'scholarly' book with footnotes, etc. -- it is accessible to any reader interested in van Gogh.
Sjraar van Heugten, Joachim Pissarro, and Chris Stolwijk, "Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night" (Museum of Modern Art/Van Gogh Museum 2008): the English-language edition of the exhibition catalogue. A slim but very handsome volume, designed and produced by the Van Gogh Museum's publications staff (my graphic design colleagues on campus tell me the Netherlands is a mecca for graphic design, and it's true that anything the VGM produces is absolutely stunning). The book features essays on the themes of the exhibition, authored by MoMA and VGM curators. The essay I read last night, for example, concerns "The Formation of Crepuscular [I love that word, try saying it out loud] and Nocturnal Themes in Van Gogh's Early Writings" by Joachim Pissarro and is incredibly interesting. A checklist of the works included in both the MoMA and VGM venues of the show appears at the back in the form of a list of illustrations (with an asterisk by the exhibited pieces). For all the sound scholarship of this catalogue, I have to say, I miss the days of exhibition catalogues that have individual entries for each piece in great detail. The tendency now is to have catalogues that don't seem so much like catalogues, I presume so they will find a broader audience. Even so, this book is first-rate and adds a great deal to the Van Gogh literature. It also makes me wish I could go see the show: my plan was to fly up for a day to NY, but the airlines have cut the early-morning flights out of Tampa (eg the 6 am, my past flight for such a venture) and raised the fares so much that it's just not possible. I take consolation in the fact that most of the paintings in the show I have seen before in their original homes; many of them are from the Van Gogh Museum and the Kröller-Müller Museum. The drawings and letters, though, I'm bummed to miss!
Speaking of VGM produced books...they got me good last week by sending out an email offering 20% off everything in the online shop for three days only, for their online newsletter subscribers. Sometime probably in this next week, the nice US Postal Service man will bring me Volumes 1 and 2 of the VGM's catalogue of their van Gogh drawings, which will complete my set (I have 3 and 4 already). Even with the exchange rate and shipping costs, it was far cheaper to obtain these books from the VGM than Amazon, *and* proceeds go towards VGM acquisitions. It's an altruistic thing to buy them, I told myself. Hooyeah!