van Gogh

All posts in the van Gogh category

THE EAR SAGA

Published September 20, 2022 by Nan Mykel

 

The Real Story of Vincent Van Gogh’s Severed Ear  (From <https://www.vincentvangogh.org/van-gogh-ear.jsp>)

Vincent Van Gogh’s legacy is more than his considerable influence on the direction of Western art. It extends beyond his visionary Post-Impressionistic collection of paintings. The artist’s impulsive act of self-mutilation just before Christmas in 1888 is a key part of the Van Gogh legacy, and new theories regarding what really happened that dark night in Arles, France, continue to fuel an ongoing controversy.

The Arles Experiment

Early in 1888, Van Gogh moved to the south of France where he rented the so-called Yellow House in the town of Arles. There, he created his well-known Sunflowers paintings as well as nearly 300 other artworks.

At Van Gogh’s invitation, Paul Gauguin arrived in Arles in October 1888.  (One author believes it was  Van Gogh’s brother who paid Gauguin to visit). The two painted side by side in the Yellow House for nearly nine weeks. Their relationship was sometimes companionable but often volatile, with Gauguin frequently on the verge of returning to Paris. Matters came to a head on December 23 when the two men quarreled, and Van Gogh ended up with a severed ear and a trip to a nearby mental institution.  (The quarrel has been reported as being about whether it is best to portray reality or what is inside the artist, with Van Gogh favoring the former.

The Official Narrative

The widely accepted story of Van Gogh’s severed ear is that during the quarrel that night, Gauguin stormed out the house. In a fit of madness, Van Gogh grabbed a straight razor and followed, intending his friend harm, but returned home instead. There, he used the weapon on himself, slicing off one ear. He wrapped the wound and delivered the appendage to a maid at the town brothel. In the morning, the police had him taken to the hospital. Gauguin subsequently packed his bags and left for Paris.

ANOTHER VERSION OF THE STORY:  GAUGHIN GRABBED THE RAZOR BLADE AND CUT OFF VAN GOGH’S EAR.  PRESUMABLY TO PROTECT HIS FRIEND FROM BEING ARRESTED, VAN GOGH CLAIMED HE HAD DONE IT HIMSELF.

 

Van Gogh

Published August 31, 2022 by Nan Mykel

 

In December, 1888,  while with Paul Gaughin, Van Gogh’s left ear was cut off.

Image:  Vincent Van Gogh with his bandaged left ear missing.  What?  The bandage is over his right ear!  But it’s a self portrait and he was looking in the mirror, I guess… The artistic genius was a troubled man….

Vincent Vab Gogh’s Biography:  Mental Health   Source:   Hundreds of physicians and psychiatrists have tried to define Van Gogh’s medical conditions over the years. The following are some of the more probable mental and physical diagnoses.

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Van Gogh suffered from seizures which doctors, including Dr. Felix Rey and Dr. Peyron, believed to be caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. Van Gogh was born with a brain lesion that many doctors believe was aggravated by his prolonged use of absinthe causing his epileptic condition. Dr. Gachet, another of Van Gogh’s physicians, was thought to have treated his epilepsy with digitalis. This prescription drug can cause one to see in yellow or see yellow spots. This may have been one of the reasons why Van Gogh loved this color.

Bipolar disorder

Due to Van Gogh’s extreme enthusiasm and dedication to first religion and then art coupled with the feverish pace of his art production many believe that mania was a prominent condition in Van Gogh’s life. However, these episodes were always followed by exhaustion and depression and ultimately suicide. Therefore, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or manic depression makes sense with the accounts of these episodes in Van Gogh’s life.

Thujone poisoning

In order to counter act his attacks of epilepsy, anxiety, and depression, Van Gogh drank absinthe, a toxic alcoholic drink popular with many artists at the time. Thujone is the toxin in absinthe. Unfortunately, the Thujone worked against Van Gogh aggravating his epilepsy and manic depression. High doses of thujone can also cause one to see objects in yellow. Various physicians have differing opinions on whether or not this is what caused Van Gogh’s affinity with yellow.

Lead poisoning

Because Van Gogh used lead based paints there are some who believe he suffered from lead poisoning from nibbling at paint chips. It was also noted by Dr. Peyron that during his attacks Van Gogh tried to poison himself by swallowing paint or drinking kerosene. One of the symptoms of lead poisoning is swelling of the retinas which can cause one to see light in circles like halos around objects. This can be seen in paintings like The Starry Night.

Hypergraphia

Hypergraphia is a condition causing one to need to write continuously; this disorder is commonly linked to mania and epilepsy. Some believe that the massive collection of over 800 letters Van Gogh wrote during his lifetime could be attributed to this condition.

Sunstroke

Because Van Gogh strived for realism in his paintings he was often painting outdoors especially during his times in the South of France. Some of his episodes of hostility and the nausea and “bad stomach” he refers to in his letters may have been the effects of sunstroke.  From <https://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/mental.html>

Vincent cut off his left ear on 23 December 1888. It was the first of several serious breakdowns that plagued him until his tragic suicide a year and a half later. We don’t know precisely what his illness was, but it had a huge impact on him.

https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/stories/on-the-verge-of-insanity

HE WAS A GOOD OL’ BOY

Published July 7, 2022 by Nan Mykel

Why did Van Gogh stop being a pastor

In December 1879, Vincent began his career as an evangelist. He arrived at the Borinage looking like a ‘clean Dutchman’, but he quickly found that to engage the people of this region, he would need to become one of them. In wanting to follow the example of Christ, Vincent intended to form relationships with the people he had been entrusted, regardless of who they were or what they did. He had desired to live out the gospel in a real and meaningful way. So Vincent moved out of his modest dwelling and into a hut, where he slept on a straw mattress. He gave his money, food and warm clothes to the needy.

He was self-sacrificing, determined in his convictions and was not moved by other people’s opinions. He preached the word of God and followed through with actions of love. He nursed the sick, prayed, taught the bible, then helped with the chores.

He wanted to follow the biblical scripture, to lay down one’s life,

“My commandment is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”(John 15:12–13).

This passion Vincent had, to forsake all for the poor, made the people of the religious institution very uncomfortable.

He Was Removed From His Position

The head of the mission saw Vincent’s behaviour as excessive; they did not approve of Van Gogh taking the teachings of Christ so literally. After the trial period had ended, the Committee for the Evangelical Protestant Churches judged Vincent ‘too extreme’ and they would not continue their support.

From <https://medium.com/george-st-gallery/van-gogh-was-a-pastor-before-he-was-a-painter-1d3744babc8e>

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