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Van Gogh's Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late-Nineteenth-Century Art (California Studies in the History of Art)

Zemel, Carol

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ISBN 10: 0520088492 / ISBN 13: 9780520088498
Published by University Of California Press, London, 1997
Used Condition: Fine copy in fine dustwrapper- Hardcover
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Printed in colour & b&w. Quarto 316 p.p. Bookseller Inventory # 13382

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Van Gogh's Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and ...

Publisher: University Of California Press, London

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine copy in fine dustwrapper-

About this title


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.


The most interesting aspect of this study is its refusal to focus on Vincent van Gogh as a tortured romantic hero; instead, van Gogh is discussed in the terms of a 19th-century professional artist. As the subtitle suggests, Carol Zemel, who is the author of two other books on the artist, attempts here to illustrate how van Gogh attempted to live out his artistic ideals in his real life, using evidence from his writings as well as his visual work. This is not your typical splashy coffee-table book laden with colorful reproductions of van Gogh's paintings; there are only 14 color plates, and more than 150 black-and-white illustrations. Despite its lack of color, this book is a rare and pleasing combination of scholarship and storytelling. Zemel explores issues relevant to any artist living and working at the time: gender issues, class, the emerging art market, and the artist's role in a modern metropolis, all the while bringing the mysterious figure of van Gogh vividly to life.

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