What Was The Reason For Van Gogh’s Sadness?

What Was The Reason For Van Gogh’s Sadness?

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We may truly never understand what makes another person sad. But with Vincent van Gogh, we know he had a mental illness, loneliness, depression, and sadness.

Vincent van Gogh’s last words were, “The sadness would last forever.” He was known to have bouts of depression and anxiety, and even so, he showed some symptoms of bipolar disease. We know that he was lonely and ostracized even from his community. Eventually, he just lost the will to live.

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We can learn a lot about his sadness through some of the letters he wrote to his brother Theo during his lifetime.

Vincent Van Gogh – The Sadness Will Last Forever

When Vincent van Gogh’s brother came to his bedside after van Gogh had shot himself in 1890, Van Gogh’s last words to his brother were, “The sadness would last forever.” Somehow he felt in death as he felt in life that the sadness never disappears.

Upon his deathbed, his brother Theo rushed to his side before Vincent van Gogh passed away. His last words to his brother were, “The sadness will last forever.” In a letter to his sister Elizabeth, Theo wrote about Vincent Van Gogh’s death and his wish to die.”

“He did not wish to stay alive and his mind was so calm because he had always fought for his convictions, convictions that he had measured against the best and noblest of his predecessors. His love for his father, for the gospel, for the poor and the unhappy, for the great men of literature and painting, is enough proof for that. In the last letter which he wrote me and which dates from some four days before his death, it says, “I try to do as well as certain painters whom I have greatly loved and admired.” People should realize that he was a great artist, something which often coincides with being a great human being. In the course of time this will surely be acknowledged, and many will regret his early death. He himself wanted to die, when I sat at his bedside and said that we would try to get him better and that we hoped that he would then be spared this kind of despair, he said, “La tristesse durera toujours” [The sadness will last forever]. I understood what he wanted to say with those words.“

Theo Van Gogh to Elizabeth Van Gogh – 5 August 1890

Most people during his lifetime and those who studied Van Gogh after his death agree that Van Gogh had some form of mental illness or mental health issues.

Van Gogh Had Bouts of Depression, Anxiety, And Other Symptoms

We know that Van Gogh had frequent bouts of depression, sometimes paralyzing anxiety, and according to some accounts, he displayed types of bipolar disorder or behavior.

On top of this, he was ostracized in his community before his death. After he cut his ear off, a petition went around for him to be removed from his home.

When he came out of the Mental Hospital, people in the community felt he could be a danger to himself and others. I look at Vincent van Gogh, and I see a man that was greatly misunderstood in many ways.

He does not seem to have many friends, except he does have his very loyal brother Theo and some other family members as his sister. But his neighborhood did not seem to have an extensive support network.

We know that Vincent van Gogh was lonely, especially in the later part of his life. In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote:

“I believe that eventually I’ll stop feeling lonely in the house, and that on days of bad winter weather, for example, and in the long evenings, I’ll find an occupation that will absorb me completely.
A weaver, a basket-maker, often spends entire seasons alone, or almost alone, with his work as his only pastime.
But what makes those people stay where they are is precisely the feeling of the house, the reassuring, familiar look of things. Of course I’d like company, but if I don’t have it I won’t be unhappy on that account, and then, above all, the time will come when I’ll have someone. I have little doubt about that.”

Vincent Van Gogh to Theo Van Gogh – 24 September 1888

We know that Vincent van Gogh was very lonely, and his life was filled with loneliness and sadness, yet he longed for companionship and friendship.

Vincent van Gogh Knew Failure, Hardship, And Sadness

Whenever I think of Vincent van Gogh, I feel that Vincent van Gogh understood, as so many of us do, about failure, hardship, and sadness. In many ways, he was a tragic lonely figure who worked hard in his painting but had little success during his lifetime.

In a letter to his beloved brother Theo in 1889, he wrote:

“However, melancholy very often overtakes me with great force, and besides, the more my health returns to normal the more my mind is capable of reasoning very coldly, the more to do painting that costs us so much and doesn’t bring in anything, not even the cost of producing them, seems madness to me, a thing completely against reason. Then I feel utterly sad, and the bad thing is that at my age it’s darned difficult to start again with something else.”

Vincent Van Gogh to Theo – 25 October 1889

Not only was he suffering from these bouts of mental illness, which no one quite understood during his lifetime. But he also lived in challenging circumstances, with his paintings and artwork not selling as he had hoped.

He understood, and he knew failure. He also understood loneliness. And he understood sadness.

Vincent Van Gogh Knew He Had Mental Illness

Van Gogh fully understood he had a mental illness. He knew he was not quite right and had this overwhelming sadness that would come upon him.

“…anyway I’m trying to get better now like someone who, having wanted to commit suicide, finding the water too cold, tries to catch hold of the bank again…Ah well, I myself with the mental illness I have, I think of so many other artists suffering mentally, and I tell myself that this doesn’t prevent one from practising the role of painter as if nothing had gone wrong.”

Vincent Van gogh To Theo Van gogh – 10 September 1889

We know from this letter that the sadness would be familiar, and then it would go away. Iin 1890, the sadness and mental illness were so intense Van Gogh took his own life.

There are probably many reasons why Vincent van Gogh was sad. But we can learn from him and his letters about the terrible loneliness, sadness, and even depression he felt. We learn how he struggled at the end and that his sadness would last forever.

15 Reasons Vincent van Gogh’s Artistic Legacy Shines On

Vincent van Gogh, with his unique style and profound emotional depth, remains one of the most influential figures in the history of Western art. His impact has endured and even grown since his death, proving the timeless nature of his work.

Here are 15 reasons why van Gogh is, and continues to be, an essential artist:

  1. Emotional Intensity: Van Gogh’s paintings are charged with raw emotion. His use of color and brushwork often mirrored his own feelings, making his pieces deeply personal and relatable.
  2. Innovative Techniques: His distinct application of paint, characterized by thick, bold strokes, added texture and movement to his paintings, influencing many future artistic styles.
  3. Prolific Output: Despite a short career of just over a decade, van Gogh produced more than 2,100 artworks, ranging from sketches to full-fledged paintings.
  4. Post-Impressionist Pioneer: As a leading figure in the Post-Impressionist movement, he advanced the genre by emphasizing symbolic colors and emotional essence over realism.
  5. Personal Struggles: His battles with mental health, documented in his letters and reflected in his artworks, resonate with many. This human connection adds layers of depth to his pieces.
  6. Evolution of Style: Van Gogh’s style evolved dramatically from his early, somber Dutch works to the vibrant, expressive pieces during his time in the South of France.
  7. Iconic Masterpieces: Works like “Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “The Bedroom” are not only celebrated but have also become cultural icons in their own right.
  8. Impact on Modern Art: Van Gogh’s explorations into color, light, and form laid the groundwork for various modern art movements, including Fauvism and Expressionism.
  9. Diverse Subjects: He painted a wide range of subjects – from landscapes and still lifes to portraits and self-portraits, showcasing his versatility.
  10. Enduring Mysteries: There remain many mysteries about van Gogh, from the circumstances surrounding the cutting of his ear to his tragic death, adding to the public’s fascination.
  11. Influential Letters: His correspondence, especially the letters to his brother Theo, provides invaluable insights into his thoughts, art, and life, deepening our understanding of the artist.
  12. Global Recognition: The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, dedicated to his works and life, attracts millions from around the world, solidifying his continued global appeal.
  13. Timeless Relatability: Themes of love, pain, isolation, hope, and nature in his works resonate across cultures and eras, making them universally relatable.
  14. Media Presence: Van Gogh’s life and art continue to inspire films, books, songs, and theatre, further cementing his cultural relevance.
  15. Market Value: The value of van Gogh’s paintings has skyrocketed, with pieces fetching astronomical sums at auctions, reflecting his lasting appeal and significance in the art world.

Vincent van Gogh’s indelible mark on the world of art goes beyond mere technique or style. His ability to connect with the most profound human emotions, combined with his visionary approach to color and form, ensures that his legacy remains not just as an artist but as an emblem of human expression and resilience.

Listen To Our Podcast About Unraveling Van Gogh’s Sadness: A Journey Through Art and Mental Health Below or by clicking here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What were Vincent van Gogh’s last words?

Vincent van Gogh’s last words were, “The sadness would last forever.”

Did Vincent van Gogh suffer from depression and anxiety?

Yes, Vincent van Gogh experienced bouts of depression and anxiety throughout his life.

Was Vincent van Gogh diagnosed with bipolar disease?

While Vincent van Gogh’s exact diagnosis is uncertain, he did exhibit symptoms that are consistent with bipolar disorder.

Was Vincent van Gogh lonely and ostracized from his community?

Yes, Vincent van Gogh faced loneliness and was often ostracized by his community, which added to his struggles.

What led Vincent van Gogh to lose the will to live?

The combination of his mental health issues, loneliness, and feeling alienated from his community contributed to Vincent van Gogh’s loss of the will to live.

Did Vincent van Gogh’s mental health affect his artwork?

Yes, Vincent van Gogh’s mental health deeply influenced his art. His emotional state often found expression in his vibrant and emotionally charged paintings.

Were Vincent van Gogh’s struggles recognized during his lifetime?

No, van Gogh’s artistic genius was not widely recognized during his lifetime, and his struggles were often misunderstood or overlooked.

Did Vincent van Gogh’s mental health improve over time?

Unfortunately, Vincent van Gogh’s mental health did not improve significantly over time and continued to deteriorate.

How did Vincent van Gogh’s artwork become famous?

After his death, Vincent van Gogh’s artworks gained recognition and appreciation, with his unique style and emotional depth resonating with later generations of artists and art enthusiasts.

What is the legacy of Vincent van Gogh’s life and art?

Vincent van Gogh’s legacy lies in his profound impact on modern art and his ability to convey intense emotions through his unique artistic style. His life and struggles serve as a reminder of the challenges faced by many artists and the importance of mental health awareness.

Why Are Vincent Van Gogh’s Paintings So Valuable?

Vincent van Gogh was an extremely prolific artist who painted over 900 works of art during his short lifetime. His work is appealing, and his use of colors and brushstrokes help make his art genuinely unique. He inspired many art movements and artists, and Van Gogh left us a legacy of not only his art but also his letters and thoughts.

By clicking here, you can discover more by reading Why Are Vincent Van Gogh’s Paintings So Valuable?

Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Commit Suicide?

Vincent Van Gogh had a mental illness; many believe he was manic-depressive. He was also sad and lonely and felt a huge financial burden. He committed himself to the mental hospital for treatment, but all this made it very difficult for him to do what he loved most: paint.

You can learn more by reading the blog Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Commit Suicide? by clicking here.

Were Van Gogh’s Last Words, “The Sadness Will Last Forever”?

Theo arrived in Auvers before Vincent Van Gogh died.; Theo was with Van Gogh until the very end. Theo recorded the events of the death in a letter to their sister Elizabeth; in the letter, Theo said that Vincent Van Goghs last words were “The Sadness Will Last Forever” (“La tristesse durera Toujours”).

You can read more by reading our blog, Were Van Gogh’s Last Words, “The Sadness Will Last Forever”?by clicking here.

Anita Louise Hummel
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