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The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  4,254 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
This chronicle of the two months in 1888 when Paul Gauguin shared a house in France with Vincent Van Gogh describes not only how these two hallowed artists painted and exchanged ideas, but also the texture of their everyday lives. Includes 60 B&W reproductions of the artists' paintings and drawings from the period.
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Published October 31st 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published April 6th 2006)
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Jason Reeser
Sep 03, 2010 Jason Reeser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I encourage anyone who is interested in art, the business of art, and artists to read this book. And I mean art in a general sense, whether it is painting, poetry, prose, photography, or any other medium. This is a phenomenal look at the mind of two artists, how they looked at the world, how they created their art, and how they related to each other.
I am not a fan of Gauguin. I consider Van Gogh one of the greatest artists the world has ever known. But this book taught me to appreciate Gauguin,
Sep 07, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This densely written little book doesn’t fall within the current category of "nonfiction books that read like novels," but what the author lacks in narrative style he makes up for in depth of research and a contagious enthusiasm for his subject matter.

The book relates the events during the two months in 1888 in which Van Gogh and Gaughin lived and worked together in Arles. The deterioration and disastrous end results of this initially promising commune of artists are well known, i.e., the lobbed
Sandra Danby
Aug 25, 2015 Sandra Danby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
I love doing background research for my novels, I guess that’s the journalist in me. With hindsight, I researched my first novel Ignoring Gravity too much, I didn’t recognise the point at which I knew enough and when to let my imagination take over. I was reading about adoption, something I haven’t experienced myself and know no-one who has. So I turned to books [a typical reaction for me]. As a reader, I hate writers who put all their research onto the page. Needless to say, a lot of the stuff ...more
Ralph Britton
Oct 13, 2015 Ralph Britton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, art
In contrast to the Taschen Complete Works of Van Gogh, which I read just before and which was informative, worthy and a bit dull, this is lively and inspirational. Gayford gives us insight after insight into both painters and encourages us to look again at their work and think about it. I had not realised that Van Gogh had read and thought so deeply and incessantly about his art, or that he was formidably well educated, speaking and reading both English and French easily. You need a tablet to lo ...more
Mar 01, 2015 StacyM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
P300 "Few people have left a fuller self-portrait in words than Vincent did."

This wasn't a quick read (for me) by any means, though it's only 314 pages long. However by the end, I found myself savoring it and trying so hard to really understand Vincent.

This isn't for everyone though as it begins when Gauguin joins Vincent in Arles and delves into when and what they painted as well Vincent and Gaugin's influence on one another while they live in the yellow house. The termination of their compani
Oct 03, 2007 Bonnie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of stories about art and artists
Ergh. I was disapointed in this book, and didn't finish it. If they had stuck to the title and really made it about those 9 weeks, then it could have been a really interesting book. Instead, the author went off on so many side-tangents and history and unecessary details that the narrative thread of those 9 weeks was lost.
I would space out when it would get to another passage (for example, describing the history of the church they were painting for a page and a half) and then I wouldn't notice w
Michael Flick
Dec 12, 2010 Michael Flick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worst
Turgid novelization of the nine weeks Guaguin spent with Van Gogh in the yellow house in Arles in 1888. If the writing wasn't bad enough, the illustrations doom this book. What's the sense of black-and-white when the core genius is color? One illustration--a reclining nude (1887) with the face of a monkey--isn't even mentioned in the text. "Ictus" isn't a secret Christian word: it's from the Latin "icere" = "to strike" and is a sudden occurrence (or recurrence) of a disease. Van Gogh cut off his ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Hermien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book for many reasons. It was an interesting insight into the relationship between Vincent and Gauguin and the influence they had on each other's art. I loved the pictures and analyses of the paintings and sketches, some of which I had not seen before, especially where a comparison was made between Vincent and Gaugin's paintings of the same subject at the same time. The description of contemporary events (like Theo watching the construction of the Eiffel Tower from his window) and w ...more
May 01, 2016 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow but very educational read. Slow because I am not experienced with all the paintings discussed by Mr. Gayford and to make the analysis sensible, I had to undertake research to see the paintings and understand some to what he was referring. All up though, it was fascinating.

For an educated art history buff, very familiar with Van Gogh and Gauguin, my quibble might be no big deal, but since I am only a dilettante when it comes to art (and I really wanted to understand), I was often reading j
Feb 03, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles gives a great insight into the brief but highly significant period that two great modern artists, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent working and living together in a small house in Arles. Through a careful study of the work and writings of Van Gogh and Gauguin, author Martin Gayford provides the reader with a fascinating account of the chaotic relationship between two of history’s greatest post-impressionists, and the art ...more
Feb 07, 2012 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, artsy
Suggested by my nephew and his mom, Greg Christensen and Chris Gailey, and my daughter Katie, I knew this would be a good book. I couldn't put it down once I started reading. Very informative, and an art education in itself. Greg wrote a blog ( wherein he shows the art that is being described; a perfect accompaniment to reading the book.
Mar 02, 2012 Bea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this book 3 1/2 stars. I enjoyed reading it but thought it didn't add much to what I already knew about this period from reading the Van Gogh's letters. The book also would have been vastly improved if it had been illustrated in color rather than black and white. Even the best descriptions of the paintings can't convey their power.
Oct 07, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, read-in-2011
An interesting and detailed book- I learned a lot about Van Gogh and Gauguin as artists and as roommates. Some of the author's tangents and conjectures are distracting or off the mark, but it's still an engaging read. It didn't do much to change my mind about Gauguin, though. What a big-headed jerk. Plus his art's not that great.
May 17, 2015 Ali added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
It isn’t often that a book completely defeats me – once begun I generally struggle valiantly on. Although this year, I am happy to say, there has been little that has disappointed me – I have had a pretty good run. I am still not entirely sure why this particular book defeated me – it might just have been the case of the wrong time, wrong mood, maybe the wrong subject – for me at least – and not so much the book. The book in question: The Yellow House by Martin Gayford (2006) – a non-fiction boo ...more
Stephanie Nikolopoulos
As someone interested in community and collaboration, I loved reading about the time artists Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent together in Arles, France, in Martin Gayford's "The Yellow House." The book is a great introduction to the artists' work, personalities, religious beliefs, and families, and inspires me to want to read more in-depth biographies of the artists and to study their artwork more. One of the aspects I enjoyed most, was discovering the unique ways in which van Gogh and Ga ...more
A thorough - sometimes too thorough - account of the few weeks Van Gogh and Gauguin spent together in Arles in 1888. It gives a detailed account of their activities, and I was staggered to discover just how many paintings Van Gogh completed during this brief period. Also I didn't realize that all told, he had been much more prolific than Gauguin. Of course the outlines of the story, as well as its shocking conclusion, are well-known, and given the fact that Gayford doesn't have any revelations u ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star, non-fiction
To quote the author, his purpose was "To put the reader in the same room as the person read about, even inside his head." I feel he did just that for me. Van Gogh is now a vivid person to me, his appearance, his moods, his studio, even his presence before an easel in a field. A slim, somewhat ragged, red-haired and bearded man, roughly dressed but deeply sensitive, warm, cowed by onlookers, and with colours and spiritual images swirling in his head, continually worried, lonely but with deep love ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Bonnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, which details the nine weeks at the end of 1888 in which Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared a house in Arles in what Van Gogh hoped would be the start of a community of artists. Many paintings by both artists are discussed and I found it especially interesting when they worked on the same scene, with very different interpretations. This period ended badly as this was the year in which Van Gogh went mad and cut off his ear and was hospitalized. He was in and out of hosp ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography

This book was really good. I wondered about it being written about just nine weeks, but the nine weeks were the focal point of this joint biography of Van Gogh and Gauguin. By the time I finished reading, I learned a lot about both men--from before, during, and after the nine weeks. The detailed knowledge that is available about how they lived is amazing. There is so much documentation available. How will biographers write about the amazing people of today, when we e mail and talk on the phone a
Jan 15, 2011 Marsha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the factual tale of the 9 weeks in 1888 when artists Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh lived and worked together in Arles. It was a dramatic period for both men, and culminated in Van Gogh's famous ear slicing episode. While it wouldn't win a prize for eloquent prose, the somewhat elementary style of The Yellow House serves a purpose: it opens the world of late 19th century artists to readers who may not have backgrounds or deep interest in art history. The author diverges from existing ...more
Debbie Morrison
This was an excellent read that provided details about the nine weeks in France when Van Gogh and Gauguin lived together in the 'yellow house'. The author did considerable research and provided specifics on the towns people that the two artists interacted with, and the specifics on the correspondence via letters, which for the most part was with Van Gogh's brother Theo.

What I enjoyed most were the details given on specific artwork created by both artists during this time. The author described th
Jun 02, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book about the lives of Van Gogh and Gauguin in Arles. It had lots of interesting information and read almost like a novel. There was a good amount of background about the time and the artists themselves. Before reading this book, my background knowledge was limited to what I had learned at the exhibit almost ten years ago, so I felt it gave me a good amount of information to bring me up to those nine weeks. The historian in me would have liked footnotes in the text to explain how th ...more
Jun 16, 2012 Sasha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. I don't think I'd recommend it to someone solely on the basis of being a good read (it's not). Gayford needed a better editor, because though he is incredibly thorough and informative, he really needs someone to smooth out the prose. The book took me a while to get through, because it doesn't really lend itself to "reading" - it's more take some in, process for a while, and then read some more. There's so much in here that I think the better version of this ...more
KV Taylor
Apr 27, 2011 KV Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm gonna say first thing that this book wasn't written for art historians, so that it's beating what most would consider a thoroughly dead horse shouldn't be held against it. There are some aspects of Gayford's theories that I hadn't heard before--but it's way, way out of my area so that's not surprising. In his appendix on the subject of sources, Gayford claims that he doesn't think these more or less new theories of his are "extravagant" (well, he only uses that word once), but I actually tho ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Mady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting description of the nine weeks that Van Gogh and Gauguin spent living together in Arles, South of France. By including some of the painters' works from that period in this book, we can easily visualise how they influenced each other and how their life and those who surrounded them were.

I'm not sure, despite all the theories, if we'll ever be able to fully understand Van Gogh as a person and an artist. However, this book helped me have a better idea of his & Gauguin's life and a
Julie Bevell
Jun 29, 2016 Julie Bevell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book after seeing the Van Gogh show at the Art Institute of Chicago and it really does an
excellent job of representing the show. It describes some of Van Gogh's best loved paintings in vivid detail and brings in new information. It's a great addition to your Van Gogh collection. I reread parts of Van Gogh's , Letter to Theo and also an autobiography of Van Gogh after perusing this gorgeous
book. Treat yourself or a friend!
Jul 31, 2015 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ex-libris
My score: 5.5 Loved the insight into the daily life and struggles of the creative process, plus the stories behind some of the well-known pieces. Interesting that Vincent was in correspondence with several artists and exchanging ideas with them. Felt the almost claustrophobic closeness of his working with Gauguin – and how they influenced and copied each other. Learnt more about the significance of the cut off ear – Vincent and Gauguin were closely following news of Jack The Ripper and the sente ...more
Mari Mann
Feb 12, 2012 Mari Mann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really well- researched book; the author seems to have read every letter, every newspaper and book, every scrap of paper related to these two artists and the place, seen every painting and drawing and every actual place in and around Arles...and brings it all together in a coherent, compelling and moving account. If it is possible to divine what someone was thinking at a certain time based on all the above, this author has done it.

As a side or footnote, I believe, after reading this book and
Jul 28, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great portrait of two artists told in an unconventional, somewhat non-linear way. Didn't read like an art history book at all - and in fact I could see how it might drive serious art historians mad for its lack of completeness. But for people interested in getting a colorful glimpse into the quirky personalities and complex lives of Van Gogh and Gauguin, it was a fascinating read.
I think I've abandoned more books in the first three months of this year than the rest of my life combined.

This one suffered from my stressful week, I'm sure, but it just couldn't hold my interest. Neither Van Gogh not Gauguin seemed like a real person, and I kept getting bogged down in trivial details. I'm disappointed because Van Gogh is fascinating to me and I really hoped to learn more about him from this book.
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Martin Gayford is an art critic and art historian. He studied philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. Over three decades, he has written prolifically about art and music in a series of major biographies, as well as contributing regularly to newspapers, magazines and exhibition catalogues. In parallel with his career ...more
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