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Lust for life : a novel of Vincent Van Gogh
Release Date: January, 1981
No artist has been more ruthlessly driven by his creative urge, nor more isolated by it from most ordinary sources of human happiness, than Vincent Van Gogh. A painter of genius, his life was an incessant struggle against poverty, discouragement, madness and despair. Lust for Life skilfully captures the exciting atmosphere of the Paris of the Post-Impressionists and reconstructs with great insight the development of Van Gogh's art. The painter is brought to life not only as an artist but as a personality and this account of his violent, vivid and tormented life is a novel of rare compassion and vitality.
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Posted by Bruce Kendall on 5/11/2000
Irving Stone is not a "great" biographer. He doesn't provide copious bibliographic details or even pretend particularly to serious scholarship. But he does do his research. What Stone is is a very good storyteller. And the stories he tells, whether about Jack London, Heinrich Schleimann, Michelangelo or Freud, have always entertained and (yes) enriched me. Van Gogh's biography, and it's companion-piece, Dear Theo, are particularly moving accounts of that great, tragic painter. I doubt if any artist ever despaired as deeply or more profoundly than Vincent. Stone captures the pathos of Van Gogh's few moments of exhiliration, followed always by days of dissilusionment and depression. Van Gogh was the saint and prototype of all struggling artists. The penury and neglect he suffered through shouldn't have to be endured by the mangiest stray animal. It's one of God's great ironies (Faulkner's cosmic jester?) that Van Gogh's works are bought by Japanese investors and museum collections for umptold millions, whereas their creator, having climbed down to the last rung of despair, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. If you enjoy this book as much as I did, read Dear Theo. It reveals the extraordinarly tender love the two Van Gogh brothers had for each other. Theo was basically Vincent's sole means of support during the artists's latter years. Unfortunately, Theo was living in boderline poverty himself, had a family, and thus couldn't give much to Vincent save for a little bit of money and a great deal of moral encouragement. Both of these books are infinitely sad, yet the redeeming aspect is that Vincent didn't live his life in vain, as he thought, and that the body of work which has survived ( many paintings were painted over - canvas was a luxury) is a testament to his genius.
A masterful work of a beautiful soul
Posted by Earl Hazell on 12/31/1999
Few times have I ever found myself so completely lost in the world of another human being as I did through this book. Irving Stone's work has already been praised thoughout his lifetime. Nonetheless, it is important to know that this is one of those works of art that seems to come from a mythical language that is the source of both truth and creativity, thereby effectively blurring the line separating novel from history while simultaneously enriching both art forms AND the subject. This is why scholars and art lovers alike have read this and enjoyed it so. There will be parts of this work where you will not be able to understand the motivation for van Gogh's actions, or the source of his inspiration. And there will be times when you will swear the book is about you. So profoundly does he capture the soul of the artist- and all artists- and in so doing the communal soul of humanity.
It is impossible not to enjoy this book. If you love Impressionism, Amsterdam/Holland, Paris, art, fine writingng, biography, or any combination of the above- and of course, if you are an artist (I am a writer and musician), this book may change you.
The standard by which all Van Gogh biographies are measured.
Posted by george r meurer on 11/5/2001
Lust For Life, first penned by Irving Stone over 60 years ago, still stands out as the definitive biography of Van Gogh despite all the years that have since brought us new books on this man and his art.
One little-known fact about this book is that in researching it back then, Stone was able to interview people who were acquaintances of Van Gogh, including his red-headed friend in Auvers, Dr. Gachet, who also sat for several of his portraits. This alone adds an authenticity to this work which subsequent bios find it tough to equal.
Last summer I vacationed in France, and made a point of visiting several of Vincent's haunts, including Arles, St. Remy and Auvers. I will always remember the bittersweet sight of his grave on the lonely hill above Auvers where Vincent lies next to his beloved brother Theo. Having just read Lust For Life added immeasurably to my experience and understanding of the man and his remarkable, albeit brief, life.
A Classic for everyone to read and enjoy.
Posted by Anonymous on 6/3/1997
Irving Stone's greatest novel, "Lust for Life," traces the life of Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh from his auspicious beginnings as an art dealer in London to his death at age 37 in Auvers in 1890. The book is considered a 'biographical novel' because, although it is rooted in fact, the author has fictionalized certain details, as well as dialog that can only be imagined. Stone, however had quite an advantage when writing "Lust for Life." He had at his disposal the massive three volume set of "The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh." Van Gogh, after all, was not only one of the greatest painters in history, but also one of most prolific and eloquent writer of letters. When reading "Lust for Life," one can easily find Van Gogh's own words liberally sprinkled throuhgout the dialog, giving a depth of insight into his art and philosophy that no author could ever dream up in a work of pure fiction. Stone seamlessly weaves a literary portrait of Van Gogh that can honestly be called a masterpiece.
Stone opted to skip over undramatic events in Van Gogh's life, such as his brief stay in Drenthe. Instead, he keeps the story moving steadily and sometimes swiftly, over the pricipal events in the artist's stormy life. Such ommisions have unjustly drawn harsh criticism from Van Gogh scholors, who question the wisdom of tampering with history. It must be remembered, however, that the purpose of "Lust for Life" is not to read as a dry, historically accurate biography, but as an entertaining story, which works wonderfully at emphasizing the drama without resorting to prepetuating myths about the artist.
"Lust for Life" works best as pure escapism for anyone wanting to transport themselves into another time. Van Gogh is brought into vivid focus, living and breathing from page to page. Stone has done an incredible job of distilling Van Gogh's personality and presenting in a highly palatable form. No matter how many times the book is read (I have read it nine times) the ending never fails to deliver an emotional whollop that will leave the reader in tears.
I wish all books could be this good.