HEILIGMAN, Deborah. Vincent and Theo: The van Gogh Brothers. 464p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. notes. reprods. Holt. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780805093391.
Gr 7 Up –Central to understanding the artist Vincent van Gogh was his relationship with his younger brother Theo, recorded for posterity in the nearly 700 surviving letters they wrote to each other. Here, Heiligman delivers an exquisitely told, heartfelt portrayal of that deep emotional and intellectual bond. It was an attachment solidified in the brothers’ youth and, at times, a volatile one, given the artist’s passionate, often obsessive connection to his work and his financial insecurity. Despite Vincent’s fluctuating moods and fragile mental health, Theo’s support and love never flagged, even when his other responsibilities and personal health issues intervened. The author frames their lives in “galleries,” from their childhoods to their early deaths, delicately detailing their work, frustrations, successes, differences, and difficulties. Interspersed are croquis—impressionistic sketches of events and family members, friends, lovers, and fellow artists. Despite knowing how this story ends, readers will be deeply moved by Heiligman’s portrayal of the brothers’ poignant relationship, experiencing with them its highs and lows. Reproductions of van Gogh’s sepia ink drawings open the sections, and a color insert of reproductions is included. An extensive bibliography and source notes conclude this well-documented title. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s compelling Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist takes a more straightforward approach to the artist’s life and features quality reproductions. VERDICT A breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more. Libraries would be wise to purchase a volume of the brothers’ letters along with this book. School Library Journal
This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.