A Shoe Story: Van Gogh, The Philosophers and The West; Lesley Chamberlain

A Shoe Story: Van Gogh, The Philosophers and The West; Lesley Chamberlain

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"I walked a few years ago in the footsteps of the lovable Dutch painter-philosopher Vincent Van Gogh and the awkward German philosopher and sometime Nazi Martin Heidegger to tell a story of twentieth-century art from an unfamiliar perspective. Now the book of that journey is finally complete. From Heidegger’s 1936 essay on art’s origins to a debate in 1977 when Jacques Derrida showed art ‘going to work’ in Heideggerian fashion, and not just hanging on the wall, I stumbled on a mass of material, suggesting how turmoil over the divine origins of the universe had radical implications for art, artists and our daily existence. Concurrently with Darwin and his influence, I lingered over the impact of the growth of consumer society and mass media, as they intensified the need among the philosophers for a redefinition of art. ‘A Shoe Story’ sounds, I hope, like a riff on ‘a true story’ and that’s the spirit in which this book is written: as the story of how a painter born in 1853 came to create a certain work and how philosophers over the next 150 years came to fight over it in a bid for new meaning. To tell the Shoe Story I also made a physical journey, on foot, to some of van Gogh’s and Heidegger’s places, where, respectively, their art and philosophy began. I found nature, strife and a Europe of the mind."

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