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.