It is Stone's first major publication and is largely based on the collection of letters between Vincent van Gogh and his younger brother, art dealer Theo van Gogh. They lay the foundation for most of what is known about the thoughts and beliefs of the artist. Stone conducted a large amount of "on-field" research as is mentioned in the afterword.
Lust for Life is famous for the way it describes the origins of many of the artist's famous paintings including The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers and others. Stone wanted to explain Van Gogh's difficult life and how he began, flourished, and died as a painter. People close to Van Gogh's life, like Paul Gauguin, are also characters in the novel.