The last 70 days of Vincent van Gogh's life were spent in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise while he was under the care of Dr Gachet, a homeopathic physiThe last 70 days of Vincent van Gogh's life were spent in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise while he was under the care of Dr Gachet, a homeopathic physician and amateur painter. Dr Gachet's potions do not help Vincent's mental illness, and may actually aggravate the condition. His 21-year-old shy daughter, Marguerite Gachet, has lived a very sheltered life cooking, cleaning, gardening, and managing the household. When Vincent visits the Gachets, he sees Marguerite light up when she plays the piano or tends her beautiful garden, and he asks to paint her portrait. The author speculates that Marguerite develops feelings for Vincent and sneaks out of the house to meet him.
The Gauchet household is very repressive, and no opportunities are available for Marguerite to meet young men. Her widowed father lives there with his son, his mistress, the daughter of his mistress, and Marguerite. Dr Gachet is self-centered and very happy to keep Marguerite at home as his unpaid servant. It is known that van Gogh actually painted portraits of Marguerite, and the author has imagined a clandestine love affair.
Marguerite narrates the story in the voice of an innocent, inexperienced girl, full of excitement of a first love. The book centers on the Gachet family, which is a fascinating story in itself. It does also give us an idea of van Gogh's work during the last two months of his life. If someone wants to learn more about Vincent van Gogh's whole life, they might want to pick up an additional book about this talented, but tortured, artist. 3.5 stars...more
Art historian Sheramy Bundrick wrote an engaging novel about the last two years of Vincent van Gogh's life. The book is narrated by Rachel, an orphaneArt historian Sheramy Bundrick wrote an engaging novel about the last two years of Vincent van Gogh's life. The book is narrated by Rachel, an orphaned prostitute he met in Arles in 1888 who fell in love with van Gogh. From a newspaper report, historians know that van Gogh presented his severed ear to a real Rachel during a bout of madness. The author has imagined the details of their relationship in this romantic story. For the sake of the story, Rachel seems to have quite a bit more free time to spend with van Gogh than one would expect for a woman working in a brothel. Through Rachel's eyes we see the sad plight of women with no means of support at that time in history.
The book has wonderful descriptions of van Gogh's colorful paintings, as well as the cafes, churches, and countryside of Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise. The arrogant Paul Gauguin and the kind Theo van Gogh are also brought to life. Vincent van Gogh is presented as a very caring, but troubled, man of great talent. Unfortunately, medical science had no cure for van Gogh's episodes of madness. (Bipolar disorder, epilepsy, syphilis, absinthe poisoning, and lead poisoning from his paints have later been suggested as possible diagnoses.) Letters were written by van Gogh and Rachel to communicate during times he was in the asylums and Auvers so that we could read about his life when the two lovers were apart.
Over sixty works of art are mentioned in the story, and the author has a list of the paintings and the museums that own them in the back of the book. The author has created an entertaining story with a good sense of place, backed up by lots of research. 3.5 stars...more
I loved how The Madonnas of Leningrad looked at memory in so many different ways. Marina is an older woman caught in the tangle of Alzheimer's DiseaseI loved how The Madonnas of Leningrad looked at memory in so many different ways. Marina is an older woman caught in the tangle of Alzheimer's Disease. She's intelligent and tries to compensated, but has problems with her short-term memory. Her mind goes back to her experiences in 1941 during the Siege of Leningrad.
Marina was working as a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum when the German army was getting close to Leningrad during World War II. The museum staff removed the paintings on the walls and sent them by train to a secret hiding place. But the frames were left on the walls. To stay calm during the bombings and to distract her mind from her hunger during the siege, Marina and a friend would spend time committing the missing paintings to memory. They called it their "memory palace". Remembering the details of the paintings was also a way of paying tribute to the great art of the Hermitage. Marina had a special love for the many representations of the Madonna that used to hang on the Hermitage's walls.
Marina never told her children the details of the winter of starvation and death in Leningrad. The German army had cut off the supply of food. But now her daughter understands why her mother always made her finish the food on her plate, even when she was no longer hungry. Her children try to piece together the experiences of what their mother had endured in 1941.
The "memory palace" of the walls of the Hermitage is the place that Marina unconsciously returns to as her short-term memory fades. She again takes comfort in the beauty of art in order to survive. This is highly recommended, especially for readers who enjoy historical fiction and art.
Leo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two fLeo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two families become entangled in this story about relationships, love, and loss.
Leo, an art historian, is the narrator looking back on the last twenty-five years in a book divided into three sections. The first part sets us in the New York City world of artists, academics, and intellectuals. There are beautiful, detailed descriptions of Bill's art and Violet's research on hysteria and eating disorders. The two families live in the same building, and their young sons, Matthew and Mark, become friends.
Part two begins and ends with tragedies. Some relationships struggle to survive because grief overwhelms the people. Friends offer needed emotional support. The Wechslers' son Mark is a troubled boy, an unrepentant liar with surface charm. He falls under the spell of an installation artist, Teddy Giles, who creates art about sadistic violence.
The third section of the book changes its tone into a psychological thriller as Leo and Violet try to save Mark from being completely drawn into Teddy Giles' world. It was fast-paced and exciting, although a multi-city trip to the Midwest seemed a little over the top.
As the title suggests, the older Leo has told us what he had loved--friends, family, art, and intellectual ideas. The journey was sometimes heartbreaking, but always complex and fascinating.
Art lovers and Francophiles will enjoy "Lisette's List". Fictional characters Lisette and Andre Roux left Paris to live in Roussillon de Provence to cArt lovers and Francophiles will enjoy "Lisette's List". Fictional characters Lisette and Andre Roux left Paris to live in Roussillon de Provence to care for Andre's ailing grandfather, Pascal. Cosmopolitan Lisette misses Paris, but becomes very fond of Pascal who tells her stories about Pissarro and Cezanne. Pascal had worked in the ochre mines and later sold paints made from the ochre pigments. He made frames for the artists who paid him with their paintings.
When World War II breaks out Andre joins the military, hiding the valuable paintings before he leaves Roussillon because the Nazis were stealing artworks. Lisette befriends the villagers and learns the skills of a country woman. She also spends time with the Jewish couple, artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella, who are in hiding. After the Nazis surrender Lisette looks for the paintings which have disappeared from their original hiding place, and tries to build a new life for herself.
I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the artworks and of Roussillon. The author has an informative website with photographs of Rousillon and the paintings mentioned in the book. It must be a fabulous sight to see the sun shining through the ochre canyons of Roussillon, carved away by both the mistral winds and quarrymen, with colors ranging from the lightest yellow to orange to rose to purple. This would probably be a good book club read for a group of art lovers since themes of friendship, love, war, and the meaning of home are also present.
"Undercover work is like chess. You need to master your subject and stay one or two moves ahead of your opponent.....It's all about understanding huma"Undercover work is like chess. You need to master your subject and stay one or two moves ahead of your opponent.....It's all about understanding human nature--winning a person's trust and then taking advantage of it. You befriend, then betray."
Robert Wittman's memoir of his twenty years as an art detective for the FBI was fascinating. He traveled around the world recovering hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen art. The author points out that a part of our history and our culture is lost whenever art and antiquities are stolen. He also founded and trained the FBI's Art Crime Team.
John Shiffman, an investigative reporter, worked as a team with Robert Wittman to write this informative and entertaining look at art theft, FBI undercover work, and government bureaucracy....more
Mirelle Martin is a wife and mother trying to balance her domestic life with her creative life as a sculptress. She also has to assert herself with heMirelle Martin is a wife and mother trying to balance her domestic life with her creative life as a sculptress. She also has to assert herself with her domineering mother-in-law who is upset that her son married the illegitimate daughter of an opera singer and a portrait painter.
"The Lucy" is a sculpture of her deceased friend, Lucy, who encouraged Mirelle to develop her artistic talent. Mirelle becomes a stronger person as she looks beyond her roles of wife and mother during an eventful year. Influenced by some new friends, including an attractive pianist, she becomes more involved with others in her Delaware community. She also carves out time for herself to work with clay.
Occasionally, the book which set in 1961 and written in 1986, felt a little dated. But overall, it held my interest....more
I was fortunate to receive this beautiful collection of poetry and artwork as a "first read". I intended to just read a couple of poems when it came iI was fortunate to receive this beautiful collection of poetry and artwork as a "first read". I intended to just read a couple of poems when it came in the mail, but I found I could not put it down until I finished it.
Poet Judy Prescott wrote these poems as a tribute to her mother, Cecy, whose mind is slowly drifting away as Alzheimer's Disease takes over. Each poem is illustrated with artwork contributed by members of Cecy's family. An artwork by Anne Gresinger, a portion of which is shown on the cover, shows a woman painted in a vibrant orange with half of her head in a green shadow, showing the devastating effects of dementia. Other artwork depict scenes of Cecy's beloved Maine.
Judy Prescott's poems celebrate the life of a remarkable woman, and wonderful memories about the good times around the waterfront of Maine. I have found that the mourning period for someone with Alzheimer's starts before their death because you miss the person who forgets who you are and forgets your shared memories. Judy Prescott's poem "Proof" addresses these feelings that she has as a daughter. This book of poetry would be a wonderful gift to anyone who has a family member dealing with dementia....more