A troubled genius, famed for his self
deprecation and vibrant landscapes; Vincent Van Gogh is admired across the
world. Though was his untimely end merely a simple tragedy?
Van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert in Holland
on March 30th 1853 to a pastor father and was brought up in a highly
religious and cultured environment.
he showed an aptitude for drawing from an early age, the young man didn’t
choose to become an artist until his late twenties instead beginning his career
working for an art dealer travelling between The Hague,
London and Paris.
During this period he lived in Amsterdam for a year with his Uncle Jan at a house
still standing next to the Dutch Maritime Museum, frequenting three or four
Sunday services in one day including
Kerk, Agnietenkapel, Begijnhof and Zuiderkerk – (follow in his footsteps by
staying in one of our apartments close by)
of his early aspirations was to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Pastor
and acted as a missionary in the mining region of Borinage in Belgium. It was
here that he began to sketch the locals and once relieved of his duties as for
overzealousness decided to study art in Belgium. Here he painted his first notable
The Potato Eaters in 1885
. The following year he travelled to Paris to work with his
brother Theo where he became acquainted with the impressionist movement and no
doubt met with the likes of
Gaugin and Monet. His work was influenced greatly by the Impressionist
movement where his pallet became brighter and his brush stroked shorter.
moved down to the south of France
where the quality of light and colour influenced his work further. With the
intention of setting up an artist’s colony in the south, van Gogh persuaded Gaugin
to join him. Throughout his life van Gogh had been plagued by low moods,
depression and fits which was exacerbated by his penchant for
Towards the end of 1888 on one occasion, in a fit of mania he threatening
Gaugin with an open razor which culminated in van Gogh severing part of his ear lobe (not
his whole ear as often believed) and giving it to a prostitute as a gift. The residents of Arles petitioned to have him
sectioned for his own safety and he was moved to an asylum in Saint-Remy for
treatment where he produced his masterpiece
1890 his condition had improved and he moved to
under the supervision of his consultant Dr Gauchet. Here the open air and
vistas of wheat fields inspired van Gogh to produce his greatest works; though
even at this point of better health he was still incapacitated by his fits of
madness which stopped him working for long periods. Two months later he had committed suicide by shooting
himself in the fields where he painted and died in his bed from his gun-shot
This was the accepted truth until writers Naifeh and
Smith produced a biography in 2011 citing that there is evidence to suggest
that van Gogh was shot accidentally by a teenager whom he did not wish to take
Rene Secretan at the time was a young man of about 18 who
dressed as a cowboy and loved guns.
Their logic calls forth the trajectory of the bullet which was at an
angle and not straight as a self inflicted wound would be.
Van Gogh had mentioned in previous correspondence with
others of his distaste for suicide labeling it immoral and a sin. So why would
van Gogh protect this youngster who according to locals had been tormenting the
artist? Perhaps he felt that he had been done a
– having not the
stomach or ethics to have committed suicide himself, he may have welcomed the
accident as an end to his suffering. Though some of the works he produced
immediately prior to his death are his most vibrant and positive. Experts have said that it would have been
impossible for van Gogh to have walked the mile or so from the field where he
said the shooting took place back to his lodgings and so the incident must have
taken place closer; could he have used this as a rouse to protect his killer?
Van Gogh experts all over the world have different
opinions many accepting that his death was by suicide citing his history of
mental health. Medical experts today have put his conditions down to a brain
lesion he was born with which caused him to have epileptic fits; this coupled
with his excessive consumption of absinthe would have made the condition
worse. Periods of extreme dedication to
his religion and later in producing artwork followed by deep states of
depression and melancholy would today be diagnosed as a bi-polar disorder.
Believing that the genius did chop his ear and then
commit suicide helps perpetuate the myth and the infamy of the artist and his
work and to some extent this has worked. If it had been accepted that he had
died from an accident it may have done nothing to arouse interest and intrigue
in his work and made him one of the world’s renowned artists.
– Our article on the National Maritime Museum.
www.blog.amsterdamapartments.com/van-gogh-museum.html – Our article about the Van Gogh Museum.