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Vincent's Arles: As It Is and as It Was

Vincent's Arles: As It Is and as It Was

Current price: $22.50
Publication Date: March 9th, 2023
University of Chicago Press
The MIT Press Bookstore
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A vivid tour of the town of Arles, guided by one of its most famous visitors: Vincent van Gogh.
Once admired as “a little Rome” on the banks of the Rhône, the town of Arles in the south of France had been a place of significance long before the painter Vincent van Gogh arrived in February of 1888. Aware of Arles’s history as a haven for poets, van Gogh spent an intense fifteen months there, scouring the city’s streets and surroundings in search of subjects to paint when he wasn’t thinking about other places or lamenting his woeful circumstances.
In Vincent’s Arles, Linda Seidel serves as a guide to the mysterious and culturally rich town of Arles, taking us to the places immortalized by van Gogh and cherished by innumerable visitors and pilgrims. Drawing on her extensive expertise on the region and the medieval world, Seidel presents Arles then and now as seen by a walker, visiting sites old and new. Roman, Romanesque, and contemporary structures come alive with the help of the letters the artist wrote while in Arles. The result is the perfect blend of history, art, and travel, a chance to visit a lost past and its lingering, often beautiful, traces in the present.

About the Author

Linda Seidel is Hanna Holborn Gray Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago. She is the author of several books, including Legend in Limestone, Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, and Songs of Glory.

Praise for Vincent's Arles: As It Is and as It Was

"Seidel acts as a guide to the places immortalized by Van Gogh in this Provençal city."
— Martin Bailey

"Vincent van Gogh’s 15-month stay in Arles, France, is where he created some of his most iconic paintings, including Cafe Terrace at Night and his Sunflowers series. Art history professor Seidel explores the French town as it was in the late 19th century, when Van Gogh and other artists moved there in search of inspiration, as well as what it’s like today as a visitor."
— Book Riot, "Most Anticipated Travel Books of 2023"

"In a fascinating blend of travel, history, and art, Seidel tours the culturally rich town of Arles in southern France and incorporates stories and letters from legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh's life to shed light on the key sites."
— The Bookseller (UK)

“Vincent’s Arles takes us step by step on a fascinating journey around Arles as it was in Vincent’s time and how it is today. Offering many surprises and fresh reflections, Seidel’s authoritative and intimate voice delves meticulously into history, myth, and legend. We explore the city’s Roman heritage, tombs, and churches that enchanted van Gogh, sacred places that have been a crossroads of pilgrimages for centuries. Vincent, a voracious reader, would have loved these pages.”
— Mariella Guzzoni, author of "Vincent’s Books"

“It is a circumstance that would become crucial to the history of modern art that Vincent van Gogh often found himself living in places of profound natural beauty, in places with impressive architectural or even archaeological histories, or both, and that so many of his greatest paintings were set in these gorgeous places. Now Seidel takes us on an intimate journey, beautifully written, through one such place, helping us to see Arles as van Gogh himself saw it, and therefore revealing how he reimagined the places he lived for artistic impact.”
— Steven Naifeh, Pulitzer Prize–winning coauthor of "Van Gogh: The Life"

"Like a medieval pilgrimage to a shrine celebrating the dead, this book is a journey through time more than space. Van Gogh's encounter with the portal of the church of Saint Trophime in Arles generates a riveting reflection on the matter of experience. What produces an event? What lies behind a painting? What comes into view? Seidel takes us from what van Gogh saw to the mist of images stored in his mind to stories of which he was unaware but that shaped every street on which he laid his eyes. The result is a gentle, most beautiful contemplation of the magical entanglements of history."
— Emanuele Lugli, author of "Knots, or the Violence of Desire in Renaissance Florence"