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 Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the extraordinary love of the Van Gogh brothers.
Let me start off by saying that this is not your typical biography of an artist that died over a hundred years ago. This is a heart-gripping story between two brothers and the love they have for each other. And let me tell you, I’ve never had any interest in art history or most artists, but I’m so glad I had the urge to pick up this book (and honestly I have one of my best friends to thank for that).
Obviously this book gives an account of the lives of not only the acclaimed artist, Vincent Van Gogh but also his younger brother, Theo Van Gogh. Right away, that was what had first caught my eye about the book, but I didn’t read it right away. Now, four years after first laying eyes on the book, I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner. At the same time though, I know that at this point in my life I’m more appreciative of their story than I would have been before.
The portrait that the author paints of these brothers is incredible. I felt like I was there with the Van Gogh brothers as they went through their lives – supporting each other, fighting, writing to one another. It was heart-wrenching to see how they were basically unable to function without the other and how their mental health (especially Vincent’s) affected their lives and those around them. Even when fighting though, the brothers loved each other and it was never too long before they made up. You can see just through this biography how deeply they cared for each other.
Theo was always willing to support his brother financially and by encouraging Vincent to keep up with his art (even being one of Vincent’s first critics). He assured his older brother that one day he would be recognized, and Theo worked to get Vincent’s paintings in art shows. It became so that Vincent wasn’t just painting for himself or because he loved art; he was painting for Theo.
One thing is for sure, without Theo, the world would have never known Vincent Van Gogh.
Whether you are into art or not, I highly recommend this book! The writing itself was amazing and I feel it made this true story between the brothers that much more incredible.
Rating: 5/5 stars