The Glory of Van Gogh
History and theory of contemporary art
A book on the character and mechanics of universal admiration.
Nathalie Heinich is a sociologist, a specialist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. The author of many books and articles on the sociology of art and culture, analysing identity, forms of recognition and celebration of artists, the aesthetic reception and artistic values.
The French sociologist Nathalie Heinich explores the phenomenon of admiration. She tries to understand how the image of a great artist is constructed, how his paintings become "works of art", and then "immortal masterpieces". To do this, Heinich turns her attention to the story of Van Gogh: poverty-stricken and on the verge of insanity, he committed suicide at the age of 37, and was later "canonized" as a cultural hero of the 20th century.
Nathalie Heinich adopts an anthropological perspective to avoid comparisons and generalisations. She suggests taking an outside perspective on the texts, words, images and deeds connected with the great artist.
The legend of van Gogh has become the founding myth of the accursed artist: his degeneration in the present proves his future greatness, while bearing witness to the pettiness of the world (“society”) which is guilty of not having recognized him.