Van Gogh's Women: Vincent's Love Affairs and Journey Into Madness
A widowed first cousin, Kee; a prostitute named Sien; shy, spinsterish Margot Bergemann; the seventeen-year-old peasant girl Stien de Groot—to all of them Vincent van Gogh would declare his love. In none of them would he find the wife to seal the emotional bond that he so perfectly imagined and ardently desired. He described it, too, in his correspondence, not only in the remarkable, justly famous letters exchanged with his brother Theo, but also in heartfelt missives to his aggrieved mother, his loyal sister Wil, and his devoted sister-in-law Johanna. Focusing especially on van Gogh’s letters to these three steadfast women he called his sisters, award-winning author Derek Fell examines Vincent’s interior life and poignantly documents his emotional decline. Indeed, the blows that Vincent’s psyche suffered—like his rejection by Kee and a dramatic showdown with her father in which the devastated Vincent held his hand in a lantern’s flame—continually undermined his self-worth. In a sensitive reading and astute interpretation of van Gogh’s own written words, Fell illuminates the passions that at once commanded Vincent’s genius and tormented his heart. Many illustrations are included in this revealing life of the artist, as seen through the lens of his loves and losses.