Van Gogh's Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late-nineteenth-century Art

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University of California Press, 1997 - Art - 316 pages
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In Carol Zemel's insightful reinterpretation of Van Gogh's work and career, the artist is seen as a determined modern professional instead of the tortured romantic hero that legend has given us. Zemel's fresh approach emphasizes the utopian idealism that infused both Van Gogh's life and his pictures. She looks at the artist's career from 1882 to 1890 through six utopian projects or professional schemes, each embodying a specific societal crisis for Van Gogh's generation: women and sexuality, the rural artisan, republican citizenry, professional identity, the burgeoning art market, and the construction of a modern rural ideal. Zemel reveals how each endeavor, as Van Gogh treated it, offered a vision of utopian possibility. She also analyzes broader historical problems encountered by all avant-garde artists of the late nineteenth century.

Zemel carefully examines Van Gogh's letters and work and also draws from municipal archives, local histories, nineteenth-century literature, and contemporaneous criticism. Her handsomely illustrated book, essential reading for art historians and scholars of late-nineteenth-century history and French studies, will also captivate anyone interested in Vincent van Gogh.

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About the author (1997)

Carol Zemel is Professor of Art History at the State University of New York in Buffalo. She is the author of The Formation of a Legend: Van Gogh Criticism, 1890-1920 (1980) and Vincent Van Gogh (1993).

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