Gold at the End of the Reading Rainbow

February 6, 2011

Sometimes my reading odyssey takes me all the way to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Book leads to book, and I follow a thread, never knowing exactly what treasures will surface along the way.  Today I want to share a recent journey through books that started with one of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2010, Man with a Blue Scarf:On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucien Freud by Martin Gayford.

 I loved this book about a year during which art critic Martin Gayford posed for a portrait.  His conversations with Freud were filled with interesting tidbits about the working life of an artist.  I liked this book so much that I decided to read another of Gayford’s books, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles.  My daughter and I once traveled to Arles, so the descriptions in this book brought back memories.

 Van Gogh was a prolific letter writer, and Gayford obviously relied on many of these letters for the factual background in his book.  I’ve been wanting to read Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo.  I remembered reading about a six volume annotated edition of Van Gogh’s letters, and when I looked for the title on, I saw that Vincent van Gogh: The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition (vol. 1- 6) cost over $600!!  Unfortunately, the public library does not own this edition, so I wasn’t sure how I’d ever be able to see it, much less spend some time with it.

And now for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  One of the reader reviews on amazon mentioned that the online version of this six volume annotated edition was available for free!  Sure enough.  If you go to and click on “Vincent Van Gogh” and then on “letters” you will find all of Vincent Van Gogh’s letters.  I will be reading them, slowly, starting with letter # 001.

And here is another treasure:  a blog, which features excerpts of Van Gogh’s letters.  It’s a great way to get a taste of the letters a little at a time.  You can link to the blog at  I’m subscribed vis RSS feed to my Google Reader account.

 Consider this treasure trove of online information my gift to you!

6 Responses to “Gold at the End of the Reading Rainbow”

  1. garden2day Says:

    Wow! Thank you for the links and information. It is truly a treasure trove and more!

  2. RFW Says:

    Read and reviewed The Yellow Chair too – great find. Now I want to visit Arles.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Arles was wonderful. We saw a bullfight like the ones van Gogh saw in the old Roman amphitheater. We also happened to be there on a festival weekend, so all of the locals were dressed in traditional costumes. Lovely!

      But, there are no van Gogh paintings in the town. Guess other museums have them all!

  3. Lynne Says:

    Thanks for the great art book recommendations and links! I’m enjoying Phoebe Hoban’s new biography of another portrait painter, called “Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty.” More a traditional biography than Martin Gayford’s account of the experience of being painted, it is an interesting addition to the works about a very unusual and long-neglected woman artist.

    • Rosemary Says:

      I’m on the holds list at the library for the Alice Neel biography, thanks to your earlier recommendation. She is a new (to me) artist, so I’m looking forward to learning more about her.

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