Vincent and Theo : The Van Gogh Brothers
by Deborah Heiligman

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More About Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
  • ISBN-13: 9780805093391
  • ISBN-10: 0805093397
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
  • Publish Date: April 2017
  • Page Count: 464
  • Reading Level: Ages 14-17
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.45 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Young Adult Nonfiction > Biography & Autobiography - Art
Books > Young Adult Nonfiction > Biography & Autobiography - Historical
Books > Young Adult Nonfiction > Family - Siblings

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2017-01-30
  • Reviewer: Staff

As teenagers, the Van Gogh brothers, Vincent and Theo, pledged to be companions in the search for meaning in life and meaning in art. In this intensive exploration of their turbulent lives, Heiligman (Charles and Emma) focuses on their complex relationship and anchoring mutual bond. Writing in present tense, she follows them from their childhood closeness as two of six children of a Protestant pastor in the heavily Catholic Dutch village of Zundert into their contrasting adulthoods in France: painter Vincents life was precarious and erratic, while art dealer Theos was more stable and decorous, if often lonely. Heiligman tells the brothers story in short chapters, sometimes just scenes, and occasionally offers what she calls croquis (sketches) to give a better sense of someone whose whole being cannot be captured on paper in one steady view. Like Theo. She also recounts, in exhaustive detail, Vincents frequent cycles of descent into mental illness and subsequent rebounds, as well as the way the brothers alternately clashed with and clung to each other. Extensive back matter includes a character list, timeline, bibliography, endnotes, and authors note. Ages 14up. Agent: Susan Ginsberg, Writers House. (Apr.)

BookPage Reviews

A biography of brotherly devotion

Without Theo, there likely would have been no Vincent van Gogh as we know him. While other books and movies have taken on these curious and impassioned brothers, Deborah Heiligman’s impeccably researched biography hits all the right marks. Vincent and Theo is primarily based on letters the troubled artist and his art-dealer brother regularly wrote one another over the course of their lives.

The chapters are structured as “galleries” that peer into the van Goghs’ experiences with unrequited love, financial and emotional depression and the intensity of their bond. Vincent, the troubled and mentally ill painter, often becomes unmoored, tethered to reality only by Theo’s financial and emotional support. The brothers’ love is evident, yet their tug-of-war relationship is made clear from their turbulent exchanges. Heiligman’s exhaustive details cover everything from Vincent’s art career to his disheveled clothes and poor hygiene. Complete with a family tree, timeline and detailed bibliography, it’s unlikely a more thorough biography of the artist and his family could be written, especially for this age group.


This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews