Vincent van Gogh is best known for his colourful paintings, but he was also an accomplished draughtsman. Of the many sketchbooks that Van Gogh must have owned, only four from his years as an artist have stood the test of time. These sketchbooks are all part of the Van Gogh Museum collection, and are very rarely put on public display due to their vulnerability. The Van Gogh Museum therefore decided to collaborate with Uitgeverij Komma to publish limited edition facsimiles of the four sketchbooks, which were used in the period 1884-1890, together with two cahiers, several loose sketches and a letter.
Axel Rüger (Director of the Van Gogh Museum):
‘We are extremely proud of this unique and comprehensive facsimile edition of the sketchbooks, which even contain Vincent’s earliest drawings. We hope that these sketchbooks will introduce a host of Van Gogh fans and collectors to his unique working method. Studying these sketchbooks is almost like looking over Van Gogh’s shoulder: it’s nigh-on impossible to get closer to the artist’.
The original sketchbooks offer an intimate insight into Van Gogh’s working method and show that in addition to being a talented painter, he was an outstanding draughtsman. The sketchbooks contain a wide selection of sketches and notes, including from the years that Van Gogh spent in Nuenen, Antwerp and Paris. They provide a greater understanding of how Van Gogh saw the world and of his development throughout his ten-year career as an artist.
‘Sometimes there are sheets in a sketchbook which still say something, even though they’re only scratches’.
Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo,
on or about 11 July 1883
This edition features facsimiles of the four surviving sketchbooks, the loose sketchbook drawings and two cahiers containing cheerful drawings that Van Gogh made for Betsy Tersteeg, the young daughter of Hermanus Tersteeg, Van Gogh’s manager at the Goupil & Cie art dealership. In order to help ensure the best possible result, a total of 25 acclaimed Dutch companies and craftspeople were involved in the creation of the facsimiles. Steven Hond (from publisher Uitgeverij Komma): ‘We sought to create the most true-to-life reproduction. Colour, materials, damage, stains, folds, creases or stretched elastic: every detail has been taken into consideration. Our aim was to get as close to the original as possible’.
The facsimiles are presented in a walnut wood cabinet based on the ‘Rietveld size’ of 35 x 35 x 35 cm. This size is connected to the Van Gogh Museum: Gerrit Rietveld designed the museum’s main building. Each facsimile comes in a separate felt-lined drawer, which can be opened from all four sides of the cabinet. The edition is accompanied by a richly-illustrated book introducing the sketchbooks and the period in which they were made.
An interchangeable picture frame for the loose sketches – also in walnut wood – is included on the underside of the cube, while the edition also comes with drawing supplies, offering a personal experience of how the artist’s materials used at the time looked and worked.
The facsimile edition will be published in a limited run of 1,000 numbered copies. It will soon be available in the Van Gogh Museum webstore and shop, at various Dutch bookstores and during PAN Amsterdam (18 to 25 November 2018). The first 25 copies will be auctioned by Venduehuis in The Hague on 21 November.
The project is an initiative of the Van Gogh Museum in collaboration with Uitgeverij Komma, designed by Typography Interiority & Other Serious Matters and distributed by Coen Sligting Bookimport.