Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Yellow House: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin Side by Side

The Yellow House: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin Side by Side

Susan Goldman Rubin
Illustrator:  Jos A. Smith 
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Harry N. Abrams, 2001   ISBN: 978-0810945883

Though Vincent Van Gogh loves his new location in the south of France, he cannot help feeling lonely. Vincent often writes to his brother Theo describing his life and his painting and Theo decides to invite the painter Paul Gauguin to join Vincent in the warmth and sun of the south. Gauguin accepts, and like an excited child Vincent gets the spare room in his little yellow house ready for the coming guest.

At first all goes well. The two men work together, accepting that their painting styles are very different. Vincent loves to use yellow in his work while Paul favors red. Vincent works fast and does not mix his paints much whereas Paul takes his time and creates his own color combinations. Paul encourages Vincent to try painting more slowly and to use his imagination as well as his eyes to create pictures. Though these techniques work for Paul very well, they do not suit Vincent, and there is friction between the two artists.

Published in association with the Art Institute of Chicago, this is a superbly produced picture book that shows the differences in the painting styles and the personalities of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. These were two men who had so much in common and yet whose painting styles and lifestyles were so different. It is fascinating to see how the two artists painted practically the same thing and yet their work looks so different. Their paintings are discussed and compared, and the reader is able to appreciate how much the paintings are clear reflections of the painters themselves.

Throughout the book the reader will find excellent reproductions of Vincent’s and Paul’s artwork. In the back of the book there are biographies of both men as well as notes from the author and illustrator describing their experiences as they worked on creating this title.