What Was The Reason For Van Gogh’s Sadness?

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.

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 goes away.

Upon his death bed, 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 here is a man that, in many ways, was greatly misunderstood.

He does not seem to have many friends, except he did 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 about the fact 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 was 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 very end, and that his sadness would last forever.

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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, which was to 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

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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The Sadness Will Last Forever