This forum of brief essays derives from a day-long gathering held at NYU’s Institute of French Studies to discuss Debora Silverman’s prizewinning Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000). Silverman’s groundbreaking book shows how the deeply religious and spiritual environment in which both Gauguin and van Gogh grew up helped to shape, in important ways, their perceptions of the world, perceptions fundamental to the making of their art and to our own understanding of it. Despite the two painters’ ostensibly secular views of the world,Silverman argues, their respective religious educations remained with them and underpinned their art. Religion affected not only the subject matter of their paintings but texture, surface, color, and composition as well.

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