Clearly written from a Christian viewpoint, the book nonetheless presents a comprehensive account of Van Gogh’s life and...



A rich account of the influence of religion on Vincent Van Gogh’s life and art.

Through a mix of academic research and poetic reflection, retired Presbyterian minister Davidson’s book explores Van Gogh’s passionate interest in God. Best known as the painter who severed his ear, the tormented artist suffered from anxiety and mental illness throughout his life, failing at several different careers before his eventual transition to painting. Initially intent upon becoming a cleric like his father, Van Gogh dropped out of theology school and briefly worked as an evangelist before being dismissed on the grounds that “he neglected himself so [that he] could not be an example to others.” While Van Gogh’s paintings are now considered groundbreaking contributions to modern art, the artist’s inability to work in the church plagued him, and he reported feeling “lonely and sad, especially when near a church or parsonage.” After studying 1,700 printed pages of Van Gogh’s letters (the majority of which were addressed to the artist’s brother Theo), the author recounts Van Gogh’s musings on God, nature and art, as well as his turbulent relationships with women, family and fellow artist Paul Gauguin. To the disappointment of those around him, Van Gogh consistently made poor decisions—through his letters, readers learn he repeatedly failed coursework, survived chiefly on alcohol and tobacco and began a domestic partnership with an alcoholic prostitute that immediately becomes problematic. Still, the book creates a detailed sketch of the Dutch post-impressionist painter, depicting him as a talented yet deeply troubled man who loved nature and feverishly yearned for a closer relationship with God. More interpretative segments of the book combine Davidson’s thoughts on Van Gogh’s work along with the writings of Christian scholars, suggesting that paintings such as ”The Night Café” were created in response to the artist’s experience of the divine.

Clearly written from a Christian viewpoint, the book nonetheless presents a comprehensive account of Van Gogh’s life and spiritual inclinations that need not be limited to a religious audience.

Pub Date: March 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1606086162

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Wipf & Stock

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet