Vincent van Gogh has become one of history’s most loved of artists, and certainly one of its most illustrious. Yet few are aware of Vincent’s prowess as a writer. His sister-in-law, Johanna, who became advocate and keeper on his death of Vincent’s paintings and drawings, recognized this when she began to tirelessly catalog the correspondence between Vincent and his brother Theo. So taken was Johanna with Vincent’s proficiency in writing that she was afraid that releasing the letters (over 900 would eventually come to light) might eclipse his mastery as an artist.

Writers David A. Glen and William J. Havlicek, drawing largely from Havlicek’s acclaimed book Van Gogh’s Untold Journey, illustrate with compelling narrative Vincent’s capacity for, at times, poetic writing, with actual facsimiles of his handwritten letters as well as those of Theo and others with whom he corresponded in his brief and tumultuous life.

And these letters clearly reveal Vincent’s true character, dispelling much of the conjecture that has been advanced over the years that has sought to depict the artist in  a less-truthful light.



Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida was the eldest child born to a tradesman, also named Joaquin, and his wife, Concepcion Bastida. His sister, Concha, was born a year later. In August 1865, both children were orphaned when their parents died, possibly from cholera. They were thereafter cared for by their maternal aunt and uncle.

He received his initial art education at the age of fourteen in his native town, and then under a succession of teachers including Cayetano Capuz, Salustiano Asenjo. At the age of eighteen, he traveled to Madrid, vigorously studying master paintings in the Museo del Prado. After completing his military service at twenty-two, Sorolla obtained a grant which enabled a four year term to study painting in Rome, Italy, where he was welcomed by and found stability in the example of F. Pradilla, the director of the Spanish Academy in Rome. A long sojourn to Paris in 1885 provided his first exposure to modern painting; of special influence were exhibitions of Jules Bastien-Lepage and Adolf von Menzel. Back in Rome, he studied with Jose Benlliure, Emilio Sala, and Jose Villegas.

In 1888, Sorolla returned to Valencia to marry Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, whom he had first met in 1879, while working in her father’s studio. By 1895, they would have three children together: Maria, born in 1890, Joaquin, born in 1892, and Elena, born in 1895. In 1890, they moved to Madrid where, for the next decade, Sorolla’s efforts as an artist were focussed mainly on the production of large canvases of orientalist, mythological, historical, and social subjects, for display in salons and international exhibitions in Madrid, Paris, Venice, Munich, Berlin, and Chicago.