Moving and enlightening.



Tracing the world’s most famous midlife crisis.

Paul Gauguin’s self-imposed exile from France to Tahiti is one of the more celebrated events in the history of art. French travel writer and journalist Coatalem follows the artist’s footsteps from his childhood voyage to Peru through his career in Brittany, Paris and two separate residences in French Polynesia. The author’s purchase of a vintage photograph, probably owned by Gauguin, was the spur for the search, and the book is essentially Coatalem’s journal. Gauguin’s paintings are like living beings to the author, and he conveys their mystical qualities so much better than he is able to do for the artist, who from his own letters, comes across as unpleasant and unreliable (in particular regarding his Danish wife, who Went Home to Mother with the children). Coatalem’s accounts are vivid when he describing his own on-site research, less when he’s conveying the facts of Gauguin’s life. The narrative truly blossoms when he arrives in Tahiti, where he spent part of his childhood. By conjuring up his own memories, he relays the islands through Gauguin’s eyes and elevates our own understanding of what this Westerner encountered when he arrived. Coatalem maps out the sites of Gauguin’s paintings, reads his letters at the Gauguin Museum and effectively conveys the influence his abject poverty had on his extraordinarily searching late Polynesian works after Gauguin moved to Hiva Oa, a distant island. While the last years of Gauguin’s life produced masterpieces (illustrations of which are few), they began with a failed attempt to raise money by an auction of his newly popular paintings (which took place in Paris on a day in 1895 that was a political and emotional equivalent of September 12, 2001), and ended in a morphine-hazed gangrenous pain as he was shunned by almost everyone. Coatalem ends with a visit to the artist’s now-overgrown plot of land, a look at items dredged up from his well, where they were thrown after his demise, and finally a dawn visit to Gauguin’s grave.

Moving and enlightening.

Pub Date: June 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-297-82968-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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