One of the founding fathers of the expressionist movement, Vincent van Gogh knew well about pain in life. Van Gogh, whose one, single painting now cost millions of dollars, only sold one painting in his entire life span of 37 years.
His love life, equally poignant as the rest, revolved around unrequited love and one-sided commitment. Vincent’s struggle and confusion about his identity and purpose is something that is visible in his works. For eg, confused between careers, he almost became a minister in a Church. This inclination towards religion, though abandoned, is also visible in his paintings like the ‘Starry Night’. ‘Wheatfield and Crows’, self portraits, etc.
Even after starting painting at the age of 27, (later than most of the artist start at), he produced about 2,100 artworks, including 860 paintings. Sadly, his mother threw away most of his work because she deemed them to be unimportant.
Van Gogh’s tragic story is mostly decoded through the letters he had sent to his sole supporter and brother, Theo. A lot of psychologists have analysed him to be suffering from multiple psychological disorders like autism, ADHD, clinical depression, schizophrenia, etc throughout the span of his life.
The story of him cutting his ear off was a result of these troubles. He painted one of the most famous series in the art field, ‘Sunflowers’ in 1888 when he was living with another artist Gauguin in France. Though Gauguin and Vincent both were artists, their work processes and outlook towards art was different.
Suffering through depression at that time, Van Gogh is said to have quarreled and threatened Gauguin with a razor one night. He is then told to have cut his ear off later as an act of regret. But, people who know Gauguin and have studied him, argue that Gauguin had the full capability to have cut Van Gogh’s ear off in a fit of anger. Van Gogh, being himself, painted his self-portrait with his ear off.
Drowned in agony and pain, he went on to live in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and circumscribed to self abandonment. There he worked on some of his greatest projects and eventually shot himself in July of 1890. His brother Theo died few months later after his death, a result of great loss and suffering. Theo’s wife, Johanna made a mission of her life to make Van Gogh known. She helped set up many exhibitions and now Netherlands have a place dedicated to his art, known as the Van Gogh Museum.
Whirling around poverty and self-doubt, his story is a classic representation of the romantic idea of a tragic artist. We can say that he never got his due. But he knew, he knew pain and art. In art, he still lives.