I’m moving along through the Van Gogh biography. He has left Paris and is now in Arles. If you know Van Gogh, you know that means he is nearing the end. I’m now in 1888 and Van Gogh died in 1890. More about that later, as there is some dispute as to how he died. In any event, Van Gogh still stirs some controversy. Maybe this book will invite new discussion about his art, its merit (or lack thereof) and his place in history. Most of us have assumed Van Gogh was a troubled genius who was neglected in life and honored in death. I can’t quite tell if this book is going to challenge that story. I had a lively discussion with some friends last week. We are a group of illustrators who meet for lunch and a field trip about once a month. This month found us at the St. Louis Art Museum. All of us are professional illustrators and we range from highly realistic to whimsical children’s art. Our collective appreciation of art admits diverse tastes, but we try, as do so many, to come to grips with what is bonafide good art and what isn’t. Van Gogh is not exempt and we try to sort him as well. I myself grew up with the “troubled genius” narrative of an artist who knew exactly what he was doing, albeit with a bucket full of emotional/psychological challenges. Now I’m not so sure. I’m sensing, from this bio and from closer observation, that he may have truly struggled with draftsmanship. That is a struggle to appreciate since drawing is no easy task, even for the professional (are you with me, guys? Or is that just me?) Mostly I’m seeing that Van Gogh was quite inconsistent, likely due to his incessant drive to mimic others, simultaneously resists and embrace trends, while wooing and rejecting those who could help him improve. Did I mention challenges? Speaking of simultaneously resisting and embracing, I’ll see where I wind up. I find much of Vincent’s work beautiful; much unattractive. I can’t imagine ever rejecting him altogether, if only for his Irises (I’ve got a thing about irises). But maybe I’ll hold my tongue the next time I try to stand up for those paintings of beat up chairs and beds. I’ll be in touch.