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Book Review: "Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days" by Wouter Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp -- Published by The Monacelli Press

Book Review: "Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days" by Wouter Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp -- Published by The Monacelli Press

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Published by Bill Gusky
A letter to Theo
A letter to Theo

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Bill Gusky on Nov 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/23/2011

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Book Review:
Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days
by Wouter Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp --Published by The Monacelli Press
 Bill Gusky
My dear Theo,In reply to your question about the greatest disadvantage to being dead and famous, I’d probably have to identify the frequent floggings as the answer. It seems that complete and total strangerscan’t resist dragging me from the grave every few years and wailing away now that I’ve bit the bigone. “Let’s see how much more gold we can squeeze from the old boy.”I suppose I wouldn’t mind it so much if more people were truly interested in the real me. But as we’ve discussed, more often than not it’s some contrived caricature of Vincent they want to know more about, some sort of pathetic insane misunderstood genius. What is it about this cartooncharacter that people can’t resist? It’s like that worthless yellow sponge creature that lives in apineapple at the bottom of the ocean, all outline and no substance. Even the outlines are without
Bill Gusky Book Review:
Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days
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 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
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