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Book Review: Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum – Martin Bailey ๐ŸŽจ๐ŸŽจ๐ŸŽจ๐ŸŽจ๐ŸŽจ

I get sent most of my review copies as digital versions and for the most part I do prefer that as otherwise I would slowly get buried under a mountain of paper. As soon as I started reading Starry Night I really wanted a hard copy of the book. The photographs and the paintings just don’t get the attention that they deserve if you aren’t physically holding the pages in your hand and this is a book that deserves close inspection.

Bailey has chosen to detail Van Gogh’s time at the asylum in Saint-Remy with beautifully detailed descriptions of the period when he created some of his best known masterpieces. The book covers how he came to be there and the inspiration that he found in the location that helped him to develop some of the most famous canvases in the world, including the cypresses, wheat-fields, olive groves and sunsets that became central to the Van Gogh style. Although he wrote prolifically to his brother Theo these letters barely touched on his time here so it is fascinating to get a feel for his struggles during this period.

For me the quality of the additional illustrations are what makes this book much more interesting than others that I have read on the subject. It becomes a social history of a French psychiatric institution of the time including early photographs of the area and a plethora of back up material that is compulsive reading for any Van Gogh fan. Even if you only really like MOMA’s “Starry Night” or have been exposed to Van Gogh via the classic “Vincent and the Doctor” episode of Doctor Who (Season 5 Episode 10) there is plenty in here to pique your interest and keep you reading. I’ll be adding the physical book to my Christmas wish list. It is a must have for anyone interested in Impressionist art.

Supplied by Net Galley and Quarto Publishing Group, Frances Lincoln in exchange for an honest review.

UK publication Date: Aug 2 2022. 224 pages.

Categories: 5 Stars Book Review

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Prolific reader, enthusiastic theatre and movie-goer and ex-Olivier Awards judge who spent twenty years working in the music industry in London. Sharing my house with a gorgeous cockapoo called Harry who has taken over completely.
I love sharing my favourite books with friends - nearly always spoiler-free as I hate reading a synopsis of the whole book in other reviews.


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