Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vin...

Title:Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0805093397
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:464 pages

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers Reviews

  • Tracey
    Dec 25, 2016

    I picked up this ARC at work, thinking that it might be interesting but not expecting more beyond learning a bit about Van Gogh and his family and maybe a bit about art. I didn't expect to read it in less than 24 hours and to absolutely LOVE it. Though the relationship between the two Van Gogh brothers was complex and sometimes thorny, they loved each other deeply. All I really knew about Van Gogh was the ear affair, but he was a very complicated and passionate artist. And Heiligman's writing st

    I picked up this ARC at work, thinking that it might be interesting but not expecting more beyond learning a bit about Van Gogh and his family and maybe a bit about art. I didn't expect to read it in less than 24 hours and to absolutely LOVE it. Though the relationship between the two Van Gogh brothers was complex and sometimes thorny, they loved each other deeply. All I really knew about Van Gogh was the ear affair, but he was a very complicated and passionate artist. And Heiligman's writing style here drew me in from the beginning. A fine, fine narrative that I'll be eager to recommend to readers and librarians!

  • Billy Zildjian
    Mar 10, 2017

    While I rate most books I read, I don't typically write reviews. This is the third book I have read on Vincent and Theo and it is far beyond anything else I have read in capturing the essence of who they were and not just a retelling of "the story" of their lives. Heiligman brings incredible insight into the relationship between Vincent and Theo and the people around them. I reserve 5 start rating for very rare books and this is one.

  • Amber
    Apr 10, 2017

    I received a copy of this book through Goodreads' First Reads program. Prior to receiving this, it never occurred to me that there would be a genre of "YA non-fiction". It isn't any less factual, and it doesn't stray from adult topics, so what "YA non-fiction" seems to mean here is that the book has short chapters (2 or 3 pages a piece, in the ARC I had). Don't let the page count intimidate you, this is a quick read, and not stuffy in tone. This well-researched book paints a much more complete p

    I received a copy of this book through Goodreads' First Reads program. Prior to receiving this, it never occurred to me that there would be a genre of "YA non-fiction". It isn't any less factual, and it doesn't stray from adult topics, so what "YA non-fiction" seems to mean here is that the book has short chapters (2 or 3 pages a piece, in the ARC I had). Don't let the page count intimidate you, this is a quick read, and not stuffy in tone. This well-researched book paints a much more complete picture of the Van Gogh family, focusing especially on the closeness of Vincent and Theo. Were it not for Theo, the world today likely would not have Vincent's many beautiful works. Highly recommend for fans of Vincent's artwork, whether young adult or young-at-heart adult. This is an accessible and engaging read for anyone.

  • Jennifer
    Feb 27, 2017

    At Reading Rants:

  • Laurie Anderson
    Apr 14, 2017

    Heart-gripping, page-turning, and inspiring. The lives of the Van Gogh brothers are a portrait of love that endures through the darkest of times.

  • Cait • A Page with a View
    Apr 30, 2017

    3.5 stars. I was kind of expecting more of a novelization than this ended up being. It felt more like nonfiction meets a present tense narrative if that makes any sense. But it was still entertaining and seriously well researched! You could probably learn as much from this as you would from an art history textbook.

    The book does a pretty great job painting a clear picture (ha I crack myself up) of Vincent van Gogh's relationship with his brother Theo and the dynamics of their whole family. And it

    3.5 stars. I was kind of expecting more of a novelization than this ended up being. It felt more like nonfiction meets a present tense narrative if that makes any sense. But it was still entertaining and seriously well researched! You could probably learn as much from this as you would from an art history textbook.

    The book does a pretty great job painting a clear picture (ha I crack myself up) of Vincent van Gogh's relationship with his brother Theo and the dynamics of their whole family. And it really does cover a LOT... like there's a timeline, info on relatives, and even sketches & paintings included.

  • Rebecca Foster
    May 03, 2017

    Heiligman’s elegant biography for 14- to 18-year-olds focuses on the key relationship of Vincent van Gogh’s life: that with his younger brother, Theo. It opens in the present tense, which recurs in much of the book, and Heiligman intersperses more standard narrative chapters with short scenes that are almost like sketches. The language is highly visual throughout, inviting readers to imagine the view for themselves. The contents are arranged under headings—Threshold, Gallery One, Gallery Two, an

    Heiligman’s elegant biography for 14- to 18-year-olds focuses on the key relationship of Vincent van Gogh’s life: that with his younger brother, Theo. It opens in the present tense, which recurs in much of the book, and Heiligman intersperses more standard narrative chapters with short scenes that are almost like sketches. The language is highly visual throughout, inviting readers to imagine the view for themselves. The contents are arranged under headings—Threshold, Gallery One, Gallery Two, and so on—so the book functions like a museum tour. The book powerfully conveys the way mental illness clusters in families. However, there is a fair bit here that will feel familiar to those who have read about Vincent before. Yet it is beautifully written and succeeds in being much more creative than your average biography. Likely to foster a deep and abiding appreciation for art, especially in teens.

    See my full review at

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  • Richie Partington
    Jun 10, 2017

    Richie’s Picks: VINCENT AND THEO: THE VAN GOGH BROTHERS by Deborah Heiligman, Henry Holt, April 2017, 464p., ISBN: 978-0-8050-9339-1

    “Vincent loves capturing the turbulence of a storm. ‘There’s something infinite about painting,’ he tells his brother. ‘I can’t quite explain--but especially for expressing a mood, it’s a joy.’”

    “Starry starry night

    Flaming flo’rs that brightly blaze

    Swirling clouds in violet haze

    Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.

    Colors changing hue

    Morning fields of amber grain

    We

    Richie’s Picks: VINCENT AND THEO: THE VAN GOGH BROTHERS by Deborah Heiligman, Henry Holt, April 2017, 464p., ISBN: 978-0-8050-9339-1

    “Vincent loves capturing the turbulence of a storm. ‘There’s something infinite about painting,’ he tells his brother. ‘I can’t quite explain--but especially for expressing a mood, it’s a joy.’”

    “Starry starry night

    Flaming flo’rs that brightly blaze

    Swirling clouds in violet haze

    Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.

    Colors changing hue

    Morning fields of amber grain

    Weathered faces lined in pain

    Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand.

    Now I understand what you tried to say to me

    And how you suffered for your sanity

    And how you tried to set them free.

    They did not listen

    They did not know how

    Perhaps they’ll listen now.”

    --Don McLean, “Vincent” (1971)

    I’m long familiar with Vincent Van Gogh’s more famous paintings, and I’ve wandered around the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I recall that something bad happened with one of his ears. And I once saw Don McLean perform “Vincent” in concert. So this book about Vincent and Theo Van Gogh caught my eye.

    I love reading nonfiction, but lacking a keen interest in painters, dead or alive, I needed some motivation for delving into 400+ pages about this particular one. By the time I’d read this description on page 5, I was hooked on the story:

    “Vincent and Theo Van Gogh look a lot alike: They both have red hair, though Vincent’s is redder, Theo’s more reddish blond. Vincent has freckles; Theo does not. They are both medium height--around five feet seven--but Vincent is broader, bigger; Theo slighter, thinner. They have pale blue eyes that sometimes darken to greenish blue. They are definitely brothers.

    But they couldn’t give more different impressions.

    Vincent in his workman’s clothes spends his day painting, outside if it’s not too cold, or inside the apartment. He is covered with Parisian soot and grime, overlaid with splatters and splatters of paint: ochre, brick red, orange, lemon chrome, cobalt blue, green, black, zinc white.

    He doesn’t bathe often, which is typical for a nineteenth-century man, but it’s even less often than he should. He stinks--of body odor, dirt, food, paint, turpentine, wine, and tobacco. He usually has a pipe in his mouth, though he has very few teeth left, and those that are left are rotten.

    And yet Vincent looks healthy: he’s robust, sturdy, and vehemently alive. Passion pours from him, as if the world he’s trying to capture is inside him, bursting to come out.

    Theo is tidy, well dressed in a suit, looking very much the proper Parisian businessman. His features are finer, more refined. He would be handsome if he weren’t so sick: he’s thin and pale; he looks as though the life is being sucked out of him. He feels that way, too.”

    VINCENT AND THEO is a dramatic, amazing, and well-told true story. Author Deborah Heiligman presents it in short chapters, 121 in all. The chapters are grouped into a series of fourteen “galleries.” Reading the chapters, one after another after another, is reminiscent of moving through a maze of rooms, reading the captions of works in an exhibit. In place of paintings, readers encounter haunting, exceptionally visual descriptions of incidents in Vincent’s and Theo’s lives, including many that inspired Vincent’s paintings. The events depicted in the story and the style in which it is written are both compelling.

    There’s a richness to VINCENT AND THEO that results from the author’s use of primary source materials--letters written by Vincent and Theo.. The story is framed by the relationship between the brothers that was cemented in a pact between them on the cusp of adulthood:

    “They will always walk together. They will be more than brothers, more than friends. They will be companions in the search for meaning in life, and meaning in art. Together they will achieve lives filled with a purpose. And they will, when needed, carry each other’s parcels.”

    One thing that is quite interesting is that Vincent Van Gogh, who was born into a family with extensive art world connections, did not initially exhibit a particular aptitude for making art.

    I think back to childhood friends who excelled in drawing and painting. Grown up, they weren’t necessarily able to make a living with their art except, perhaps, as teachers. But if anyone was going to make it, it would have likely been them. I imagine artists to be like jocks: they show promise and they compete in high school and then in college. Through a combination of talent and motivation, the handful who will move on to engage professionally reveal themselves..

    In contrast, we see Vincent in his mid-twenties, struggling to perfect the essentials of drawing and perspective, a man who doesn’t sound as if he’s as gifted as some of the budding artists I knew as a teenager. But Vincent sees things differently. Once he hones his skills, can express on paper and canvas what he sees in his head, and becomes exposed to the work of the Impressionists, he’s on his way to immortality.

    It’s difficult not to see this tale as a tragedy. There are near-constant struggles faced by the brothers. Vincent had so little time between perfecting his techniques and dying in his thirty-seventh year. Theo barely survives Vincent, succumbing at thirty four.

    VINCENT AND THEO provides vivid images of western Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In addition to extensive, well organized front and back matter, the book contains eight glossy pages that show eleven of Vincent’s works.

    This is a truly notable piece of YA nonfiction.

    Richie Partington, MLIS

    Richie's Picks

    richiepartington@gmail.com

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