Art his­tory

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

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

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