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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 16:42 GMT
Artistic temperament uncovered at Arles
Self-Portrait with Portrait of Bernard, 1888 by Paul Gauguin courtesy of Van Gogh Museum
Gauguin and Van Gogh formed an artists' co-operative
By BBC News Online's Helen Bushby

Van Gogh and Gauguin - The Studio of the South is a sumptuously illustrated book telling the stormy tale of how two famous artists met and worked together before disastrously falling out.

The book actually accompanies an exhibition - Van Gogh and Gauguin - which has opened at Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum.

It features both artists' work during their time together in Arles, France, between October and December 1888.

But if you are unable to get to the art show, the book, which includes 510 illustrations with more than 300 in colour, is a good substitute.

When the two struggling artists met, they decided to live together in order to form an artists' co-operative, to break away from Impressionism and develop their own style.

Self-Portrait by Van Gogh, 1888, courtesy of Fogg Art Museum, Collection of Maurice Wertheim
Van Gogh famously cut off his left ear after a row with Gauguin
The book goes into huge detail about each of their backgrounds, and how their artistic style developed both before and during their time in Arles.

It also touches on Van Gogh's depression and troubled state of mind.

He famously cut off part of his left ear after a row in Arles with Gauguin, who wrote afterwards: "Ever since it was clear that I had to leave Arles, he was so bizarre that I couldn't take it.

"He had taken a razor and cut his ear clean through. He was hospitalised. They had to lock him up in a room."

This episode makes for quite a read, especially when accompanied by Van Gogh's famous Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

A comparison between each artist's distinctive style can also be made, as the book puts many of their works, often of the same subject, side by side.

Van Gogh's now priceless Sunflower paintings also feature heavily - he painted them to herald Gauguin's arrival, saying they represented "companionship" and later "gratitude".

The exhibition brings together many versions of his Sunflowers, and although it is not as good as the real thing, it's still quite something to see them on page after page in the book.

As well as paintings and sculptures, the book also includes sketches, including Gauguin's depiction of an execution taking place, which he drew while someone was beheaded by a guillotine.

And his hand-modelled pots featuring Breton scenes, which he described as "monstrosities" are also on show.

The book will appeal to both serious art lovers and those who want to dip in and out of it - if you don't want to read all of the words you can just look at the pictures.

The exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin is at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from 9 February - 2 June 2002. Van Gogh and Gauguin, The Studio of the South by Douglas W. Druick is published by Thames and Hudson

See also:

11 Dec 01 | Arts
'Unique' Van Gogh unearthed
26 Sep 01 | Arts
Van Gogh 'fake' row re-ignites
08 Mar 01 | Europe
Star dates Van Gogh canvas
26 Oct 97 | World
Van Gogh's sunflowers "fake"
11 Jan 02 | Arts
First impressions for Monet
25 Oct 01 | Arts
Art dealer Wildenstein dies
29 Jun 01 | Reviews
Lasting impression
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