Sunday, September 20, 2009

Van Gogh the Writer

Buzz is starting to build about the publication next month of the new English translation of van Gogh's correspondence, the first comprehensive English translation since 1958 and the product of 15 years' work by the curators of the Van Gogh Museum. Today's Financial Times features a review of the six-volume edition, while the The Sunday Timesincludes a chatty review/commentary by Waldemar Januszcak, himself no stranger to things van Gogh. So far only the British press is jumping on this particular bandwagon, which is not surprising, given that the Royal Academy will be presenting a major exhibition on the theme of van Gogh's letters in spring 2010. Nearer in time will be the opening of the Van Gogh Museum's own exhibition on the letters, which takes place on 9 October. I expect van Gogh coverage will be steadily increasing in the next few weeks as the new edition of the letters gets more exposure. (Which as far as I'm concerned is awesome yet coincidental timing, but that's another story!)

Initial remarks about the new edition suggest that those looking for Big Revelations and Big Scandals in the inclusion of previously-omitted passages from van Gogh's letters are going to be disappointed. I admit, I would have loooooved the new research to have uncovered Dramatic Information about the prostitute Rachel, but I never really expected that! Rather, the new edition of the letters confirms what the Van Gogh Museum curators and other mythbusters (including me, in my small way) have been saying for years: that the solitary mad genius of van Gogh-ian mythology is not the Real Vincent. Disciplined, hard-working, well-read, knew-exactly-what-he-was-doing Vincent, that's the real Vincent. It's the Vincent I've come to know, and I'm looking forward to the six volumes showing up on my doorstep in a few weeks so that I can get to know him even better. I'll be posting my own review of the new edition once I've thoroughly checked it out.

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