value. Very rarely does anyone ever get it right. Picasso understood me well, as did Matisse and some of the Fauves. Kirk Douglas had not a clue. As for Don McLean, let it be said that he doesn’t want tomeet me in a dark alley anytime soon. My stomach churns to this day from all the grave-spinningcaused by his worthless ballad. Wouter Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp seem most assuredly to have a clue, if their book
VanGogh in Auvers: His Last Days
is any indication. It’s one of the few times I’ve noticed the authorsof a mainstream publication attempt to straighten accounts for me and set things right. As an example allow me to submit these quotes from the introduction:
Van Gogh has often been presented to us as poor, sick, insane,depresssed, alcoholic, and hotheaded. He has usually been portrayed asan antisocial and isolated individual, as a violent misfit, filled with rageand easily carried away, who sold only one painting in his lifetimebecause his work was despised and misunderstood. He died a martyr,sacrificed at the altar of the ignorance of his contemporaries. ... In reality, Vincent van Gogh was a complex, intelligent, and sophisticated artist... He was a longtime student of the techniques of drawing, consulted textson perspective, and kept himself abreast of the latest artisticdevelopments of his time. He could afford to do all this because he wasnot in a position of financial difficulty...This cultivated bourgeois was not mad, far from it. He was obstinate,uncompromising, drawn to the extreme in everything he undertook. Hehad an impossible character, an innate and stubborn sense of perseverence, and he was utterly indifferent to what other people might think or say...Van Gogh was neither misunderstood nor ignored by hiscontemporaries. ......the privileged few who were able to view his work... were filled withenthusiasm for the dazzling work before their eyes... Finally, (he) did not sell just one painting in his lifetime. ...
Theo, do you want to know what the greatest disgrace of a misleading caricature is? It doesn'tsmell. There’s no sweat, no anxiety. Those last days come back to me in memory as an aromaticmelange, coffee, tobacco, liquors and sweats of all kinds: tobacco sweat, alcohol sweat, garlicsweat. The rancid alfalfa sweat of the stable man as distinct from the half-franc-perfume sweat of the Avenue Dimanche whore, as distinct from the hot summer morning old-laundry sweatsteamed into overworn bed sheets. The clean glisten of exhilaration at a perfect creative moment,
Bill Gusky Book Review:
Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days