PRINT April 1988


These shoes are hallucinogens.

—Jacques Derrida

Extensions of his being, they image the qualities and conditions necessary for his health of mind.

—Meyer Schapiro

The peasant woman, on the other hand, simply wears them.

—Martin Heidegger

DURING THE SECOND HALF of 1886, while working in Paris, Vincent van Gogh borrowed a couple of shoes (or several pairs?) for the express purpose of painting them. From whom they were borrowed is unknown, although it has commonly been assumed that he borrowed them from his own peripatetic feet, giving them, as it were, secondary employment in art. We imagine the scene of the production of van Gogh’s small, unassuming, but animated painting as consistent with Modernism’s basic struggle—the artist/painter wrestling with pictorial truth. But the warm simplicity of this benign setting will recede quickly from view as the story shapes itself into an episodic parable,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. Please sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW and save up to 65% off the newsstand price for full online access to this issue and our archive.

Order the PRINT EDITION of the April 1988 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.