reading reviews on the art of ‘creativity and art’

This Post is an evolving resource in which I expand on ‘The Art and Creativity’-related reading reviews found in The Reading Room. This narrows the full list of reviews anchored in the following key themes and topics of the A.R.T. Project:

acceptance, reflection, and transformation


the body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit

These are the key attributes of life’s interconnecting matrix. As we explore this matrix through philosophy, psychology and spirituality, we acquire related knowledge and understandings significant meaning to our lives.

My reading reviews feature books, articles and blog posts to explore deeper awareness, connections and understandings. This allows us to creatively, personally, and critically reflect and transform.

Please stay tuned as list frequently updates with new reading reviews!

Van Gogh: The Life
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, who galvanized readers with their Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Jackson Pollock, have written this tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable portrait of Vincent van Gogh.

Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of previously untapped materials to bring a crucial understanding to the larger-than-life mythology of this great artist.

Reading about Van Gogh’s early early struggles to find his place in the world, his intense relationship with his brother Theo, and his move to Provence, where he painted some of the best-loved works in Western art, embraced me on a personal and creative level.

The authors also shed new light on many unexplored aspects of Van Gogh’s inner world: his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; his bouts of depression and mental illness; and the cloudy circumstances surrounding his death at the age of thirty-seven.

Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years.

Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius.

Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days
by Wouter van der Veen

I also enjoyed reading this ‘coffee table’ book which is a bit pricey (I received it as a gift) but very special indeed.

I have read more than 20 books on Van Gogh and I found this book to be full of detailed information of his last days which I had never seen before.

It also was fascinating and heartbreaking to read so much research related to Theo’s last 6 months.

I would highly recommend this book to any lover of Vincent’s art.

Jackson Pollock
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Jackson Pollock was more than a great artist, he was a creative force of nature. He changed not only the course of Western art, but our very definition of “art.”

He was the quintessential tortured genius, an American Vincent van Gogh, cut from the same non-conforming cloth as his contemporaries Ernest Hemingway and James Dean. Pollock was  tormented by the same demons. He was a “cowboy artist” who rose from obscurity to take his place among the titans of modern art, and whose paintings now command millions of dollars.

Here, for the first time, is the life behind that extraordinary achievement. It was a disjointed childhood based in sibling rivalry,  sexual ambiguity, and the artistic frustration out of which both artist and art developed.

Based on more than 2,000 interviews with 850 people, Jackson Pollock is the first book to explore the life of a great artist with the psychological depth that marks the best biographies of literary and political figures.

In eight years of research the authors have uncovered previously unknown letters and documents, gained access to medical and psychiatric records, and interviewed scores of the artist’s friends and acquaintances whose stories had never been told. They were also the first biographers in twenty years to benefit from the cooperation of Pollock’s widow, Lee Krasner.

The results of these unprecedented efforts lie before you: a rich, sprawling, landmark biography of one of the most compelling figures in all of American culture; a brilliant, explosive “portrait of the artist,” intimately detailed, abundantly illustrated (with more than 200 photographs from Pollock’s life and work, many of them never before published), and filled with new information and new insights.

In a style as richly textured, engrossing, and poignant as the best of contemporary literature, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith give us the family crucible out of which the artist and his art emerged.

Beginning with Jackson’s birth on a sheep ranch in Wyoming, we follow the Pollock family on a relentless trek across the American West, as their dreams of a better life somewhere else are repeatedly frustrated. We see the young Jack Pollock as a struggling art student in New York, escaping into drunken rages or throwing himself into the Hudson River in one of several attempts at suicide.

Later, we see Pollock, by turns, gently affectionate and outrageously cruel, creatively bankrupt and heroically productive. We see him alternately fascinated and intimidated by his contemporaries: Clement Greenberg, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Harold Rosenberg, Clyfford Still, Tennessee Williams.

We see him enter into a tumultuous marriage with the painter Lee Krasner, creating a powerful alliance that will lead first to triumph, then to decline, and finally to death when, with his mistress at his side, Pollock smashes his car into a tree.

But Jackson Pollock is more than the epic story of a tormented man and his sublime art, it is also a compulsively readable, sweeping saga of America’s cultural coming of age.

From frontier Iowa to the dust bowl of Arizona, from the twilight of the Wild West to the desolation of Depression-era New York, from the excitement and experimentation of the Mexican muralists to the fanfare of the Surrealists’ visit to America, from the arts projects of the WPA to the explosion of interest and money that marked the beginning of the modern art world, Pollock’s story unfolds against the dramatic landscape of American history.

Here then is a definitive record of the journey of an artist, filled with piercing psychological insights, that brings us to a truer understanding of the power and pathos of creative genius. 

Namaste,  LeahJ

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