Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence Martin Bailey (Frances Lincoln, £25)
MARTIN Bailey is a van Gogh expert who has curated exhibitions of the artist’s work and written extensively about him. However, he is not an academic—he’s an arts journalist and this relieves his approach of the necessity for theoretic attitudinising. In fact, it lends a certain sprightliness to his prose, for mr Bailey tells the story of the painter’s years in Arles (1888–89) directly, but with a welcome admixture of new facts garnered from his reporter’s assiduous research.
Thus, not only are one-third of the artist’s output of paintings from the Arles period reproduced here, but also a newly accepted portrait of Gauguin. likewise, a previously unknown drawing of van Gogh by emile Bernard is published for the first time in the literature on the artist.
mr Bailey also tracks down and interviews anyone still alive who had a close connection with Vincent, including Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122 and would have been 13 when the artist bought canvas from her family’s textile shop. Then there’s Pauline mourard, daughter of Dr Felix Rey, who treated and befriended van Gogh. mr Bailey interviewed both.
Famously, the artist slashed his ear and here we have the address of the brothel to which it was sent, as well as the earliest newspaper report of the incident. Crumbs of information, you may say, but all help to preserve a fresh and lively style of narrative. The author is convinced that Vincent cut his ear not simply out of frenzy, but because he had just heard that