Italian curator Mariella Guzzoni’s “Vincent’s Books” depicts 19th-century painter Vincent van Gogh as a voracious bookworm.

What books a great painter read to paint his pictures

Relatives of Vincent van Gogh worried that the 19th-century painter was the black sheep of the family. But in fact, by the family name Gogh, the world remembers only one first name of Vincent.

Out of his many characteristics, Vincent is well known for his passion for painting. And Italian curator Mariella Guzzoni points out that the great artist has another powerful passion for reading.

In her 2020 book “Vincent’s Books,” Guzzoni said that Vincent read books in Dutch, French, and English written by such authors as Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, Guy de Maupassant, and William Shakespeare.

In a letter to his brother and soul mate Theo, Vincent showed he was an insatiable reader.

“Vincent was twenty-seven when he decided to become an artist, soon after a touching letter that also speaks of his ‘irresistible passion for books,’” Guzzoni wrote.

“His love for reading accompanies him throughout his entire life, responding to his changing personae _ art dealer, preachers, painter _ but always led by his insatiable desire to learn, comprehend, reason, discuss, and ultimately to find his own way to be of service to humanity.”

Included in the best book list of Vincent were “Hard Times” of Dickens, “Bel Ami” of Maupassant, “The Joy of Life” of Zola, and “King Lear” of Shakespeare, to name but a few.

Of note is that Guzzoni’s book has a yellow cover _ the color most loved by Vincent, who took his life at the age of 37.

Understanding human nature in indirect ways

The above-mentioned writers, most of them known as literary Naturalists, were famous for delving into human nature. And it seems that Vincent tried to learn human nature by avidly reading them.

Gruff and unsocial, Vincent was very serious and warmhearted. Plus, he wanted to be useful to humanity and tried to find out how throughout his short life.

In this sense, Zola, Dickens, and Maupassant were his friends, and Vincent treated the characters of their books as if they were flesh-and-blood persons, according to Guzzoni.

Dear, Zola, Dickens, and Maupassant, thank you! Although few recognized his greatness when he was alive, and few helped the lonely genius, your work was indeed of help to him.

Vincent would also appreciate that.