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Leonardo Reviews 229 J. Hulsker and others. Because of the depth of their coverage (as well as an appropriate interest in documentation of dimensions, locations and provenances ), however, the size of a particular reproduction does not always do justice to the original. For the most part these books follow a chronological order , do not attempt to push things into sub-categories, and stick to the art. Second , we have the exhibition catalogs, which reproduce the items of a particular show but also, more often than not, try to round out by including a few paintings that are not traveling and others by artists who were contemporaries of Van Gogh, or who were greatly influenced by him. These catalogs are always accompanied by essays about the life and times of Van Gogh and, on rare occasions , include some scholarship. The dating of Vincent’s paintings in Arles and St. Rémy—often to the very day—by R. Pickvance is a case in point. And third, we encounter books of reproductions that profess to give the viewer a slice of Vincent’s work. A natural category here is the self-portrait and the complete assembly by P. Bonafoux of Van Gogh’s self-portraits is a laudable example. Others elect to carve out a topic, often arbitrary with regard to place or time, and then blend in a narrative with mixed success. This last type seems to be driven by publishers who want to offer yet another volume at a prescribed weight, suitable for the coffee table or bed, but not overly taxing to the intellect. Van Gogh: Fields and Flowers is a light book that has been ably designed and produced. High-quality color reproductions of Van Gogh’s paintings abound and, true to the title, the selections are mostly of floral arrangements, flowering trees and agricultural landscapes. However, there is a smattering of other subjects, both urban and domestic. It is a bit of a surprise to encounter The Café Terrace at Night, The Yellow House, The Bedroom, Vincent’s Chair, Gauguin’s Chair and A Pair of Shoes, which were supposedly included to help carry the narrative . The trouble with little books on this big subject is that they cannot resist bouncing the vita from chapter to chapter (in this case, “Bouquets,” “Flowering Trees,” “Irises,” etc.) and thus end up with a disjointed chronology because of the multiplicity of venues and dates. Debra Mancoff has made a good choice of quotations from Van Gogh’s letters, and cites them by month, season and year. The letter numbers from the English version would have been helpful. One assumes that the selected bibliography was guided by the author’s own experience, and the omission of Tralbaut and others will trouble serious scholars. The book’s 17 references may be in proportion to its length (if not to the subject), yet a larger number would have been useful. The index is limited and quaint, for example the ear-cutting affair is not in the “e”’s but can be found under “Van Gogh, Vincent, m . . .” (as in “mutilates his left ear”). Happily, the author has spared us the oft-cited nonsense about Vincent Willem Van Gogh being a replacement child, but then inexplicably claims that his older brother died in infancy when, in fact, he was stillborn (a reproduction of the village certificate confirming this is in Tralbaut’s book). Likewise, Mancoff misses the point that Vincent and Willem were the first names of the artist’s grandfathers. Vincent’s medical crises in Arles and St. Rémy are vaguely documented, and the longest of the six, just three weeks before his train trip to Paris, is not even mentioned. Readers who are most interested in the color plates may not notice such errors and omissions and we can only hope that they will consult other publications for matters of historical detail. On the other hand, the author obviously enjoys Van Gogh’s paintings, has offered personal selections as a starting point, and her enthusiasm is clear. THE SOUND OF PAINTING: MUSIC IN MODERN ART by Karin v. Maur. Prestel Verlag, Munich, London, New York, 1999. ISBN: 3-7913-2082-3...


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pp. 229-230
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