Early in his career, as he grappled with the idea of becoming an artist, Vincent van Gogh attempted portraiture, possibly with a mission in the religious sense. His models were impoverished miners, weavers and peasants. Later, his great achievement was in still life, landscape painting and further portraits all closely related to the places where he lived.
He moved from place to place, from his parents' vicarage to the homes of impoverished peasants, from seaside Ramsgate, and landmarks in London to the heights of Montmartre, from the famous Yellow House in Arles to hospital then a nearby asylum. Finally, he wandered the fields and streets of Auvers, near Paris. Wherever he lived, he drew and painted.
As well as the places where he stayed, he painted the homes of others, and monuments that attracted him, such as churches or even suburban factories. These became the subject of an alternative kind of portraiture - one that did not involve people. His developing, emphatic and highly individual style suited the different character of the buildings he so carefully recorded. Each place, about which he also wrote at length, provides us with a solid framework with which to follow and understand him.
Van Gogh's life will be revealed not only through the included illustrations of his art, but with much quotation from letters.
The book hopes to answer the questions: Why was he there? what and who else were there? How did his vision suit the place - or vice versa?
Juliet Heslewood studied the History of Art at London University and later gained an MA in English Literature at Toulouse. For over thirty years she lived in France where she devised and led study tours on art and architecture. Her books include The History of Western Painting for young people which was translated into twelve languages. She also wrote its companion on sculpture. Other work includes a whole series on the portraits of people who have been close to artists, such as their mothers, lovers and children. She has written collections of world folktales, one of which she turned into a play for children's radio. For Radio Four she wrote a dramatic retelling of the story of an 18th century strolling player, with Dame Judi Dench playing the lead. Juliet now lives in Oxfordshire and lectures widely on art, frequently at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Her recent novel Mr Nicholls reveals the story of the troubled courtship of Charlotte Bronte from a young boy's angle. She continues to write about art, often inspired by the lectures she gives.