Not the last word on either artist’s creations, but a valuable and timely revision of standard wisdom about the first phase...




A reconsideration of religious elements in the work of van Gogh and Gauguin, who lived together in the French provincial town of Arles for a brief but productive period in both their careers.

Generations of art critics have regarded both van Gogh and Gauguin as the prototypes for Modernist artists, rebellious individualists who spurned narrow social norms to follow their muses. Popular songs and big-budget movies have celebrated Gauguin’s flight from civilization to a tropical paradise and van Gogh’s inspired, Romantic madness. Cultural historian Silverman (Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France, 1989, etc.) looks beyond the formulas to examine the religious institutions that influenced the two artists’ spiritual quests and aesthetics. Drawing on their letters, journals, and other writings, she traces the effect of Gauguin’s Catholic upbringing on his imagery and uncovers van Gogh’s roots in the Protestantism of the Dutch Reformed church. Gauguin’s education, at the Petit Séminaire near Orléans under the tutelage of the dynamic educational reformer Bishop Dupanloup, she argues, instilled the principles of “idealist antirationalism” and “cultivation of interior vision” into the young artist, beliefs that persisted through all his conscious rebellions against the Church. Silverman contrasts this attitude with that of van Gogh, who absorbed a respect for the concrete, for material objects and daily tasks, through a religion that regarded labor as a form of worship. Eschewing Gauguin’s allegorical, mystical images, the Dutch artist “expressed his persistent need to render an image so as to be as tangible, physically present, and textural as the canvas on which it was applied.” Analyses of carefully chosen and beautifully reproduced works reveal the lingering presence of each artist’s religious heritage in composition, palette, and content, although Silverman occasionally lapses into baffling abstraction when discussing the artists’ spiritual innovations.

Not the last word on either artist’s creations, but a valuable and timely revision of standard wisdom about the first phase of Modernist art. (198 illustrations, 147 in color)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-28243-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.



Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.


A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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