Did you know Vincent van Gogh kept a sketchbook? Several of them, in fact. For years, seven of them were kept at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, hidden away in the institution's archives. Now, they've been unveiled for all the world to see in Molly Oldfield's The Secret Museum.
Secret Museum comes to our attention via Brain Pickings' Maria Popova, who harbors the best kind of obsession with the scrawls and doodles of history's greatest minds. Oldfield's book, she says, provides a fascinating look at Van Gogh's life and his development as an artist – that they contain within their pages the seeds of inspiration for some of his greatest work.
"The first sketchbook has a royal blue, marbled inside cover and an empty pocket at the back," writes Oldfield in her description of Van Gogh's drawings. "The first image he sketched in it was a church in Nuenen. He later painted this church in View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen. [Pictured at left.]"
In the final sketchbook, rough depictions of sunflowers channel Van Gogh's unmistakable eye for natural forms; though, as Oldfield notes, when he drew them, Van Gogh was about as far from famous as a person could be.
Having never sold a painting in his life, at that moment, Van Gogh would never have conceived of a time when his sunflowers would be instantly recognized across the planet."