I am three quarters through Van Gogh - The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. It is a definitive biography that embraces many other artists working at that time. It also describes the scientific thinking which reflected on developing art at that time. Stage by stage the development and emotional and psychological roller coaster of his life is revealed. It is Van Gogh as I hadn't previously discovered. This is a huge book (£16.99 in paperback from the National Gallery and 900 plus pages). The first part involving his young days bogged me down somewhat but then it takes off. It is fascinating - what a journey! It is claimed by Leo Jansen Curator of the Van Gogh Museum to be the definitive biography and I don't doubt it for a minute. I realise you are interested in French artists but he was deeply involved with French artists and the Paris scene. I hope this helps.
I'm really interested in victorian artists and in particular walter sickert. I'm also interested in culture and artists from the french bohemian culture of the 1800's. I'm an absinthe fan and very interested in this period of history. Has anyone read any good books on this?