Vincent van Gogh used to be one of my favorite artists…. until I read this book.
I thought I already knew a lot about van Gogh, but “Learning from Henri Nouwen & Vincent van Gogh – A Portrait of the Compassionate Life” by Carol A. Berry taught me much more than I was expecting.
Now van Gogh is more than just “one of my favorites” – he will forever be my MOST favorite!
One thing I loved about this book right away is that the author doesn’t present the common clichés about van Gogh as facts (like so many others do), but as theories or misunderstandings.
When teaching about van Gogh to my 1st graders, I’d begin by asking them what they already knew about the artist, Vincent van Gogh. I’d be dismayed to hear them say, “He cut off his ear!”, or “He killed himself!”, rather than remembering him for his great art or his compassion for others.
This book draws wisdom from van Gogh’s life and work, along with the teachings of theologian Henri Nouwen, author of more than 40 books on the spiritual life. (Nouwen’s books, which emphasize relationships and social justice, have sold over two million copies in 22 languages.)
Nouwen had a profound interest in van Gogh. Both were Dutch, both shared a compassion for the poor, and both were deeply spiritual yet unconventional in their ministries.
Author Carol Berry had the rare opportunity to audit a class taught by Nouwen at Yale Divinity School – “The Compassion of Vincent van Gogh”. Raised in the Netherlands herself, she retraced the steps of van Gogh’s life in The Netherlands, Great Britain, Belgium, and France and read his over 900 letters to his brother, Theo. Berry has been studying van Gogh’s life and work, and sharing her insights since 1979.
If you love Vincent van Gogh, this book is like a “behind the scenes” tour of his life and art. The insights Berry offers from her own research and the material shared with her from Nouwen’s literary estate, presents an inspiring peak into the real Vincent van Gogh that most people have no clue about. Forget what you think you already know about van Gogh and read this book. Highly, highly recommend!