Which Ear Did Van Gogh Cut Off Left Or Right? And Other Facts

Which Ear Did Van Gogh Cut Off Left Or Right? And Other Facts

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One of the more fascinating stories about the artist Vincent van Gogh is about him cutting off his ear. We know from the letters and other documentation that this happened.

Vincent Van Gogh cut off his left ear; he painted several paintings of himself with the bandaged ear. The events leading up to the ear cutting were because of artistic disagreements with the artist Paul Gauguin. Cutting off his left ear made the local newspaper’s front page and set off a chain of events that would change Vincent Van Gogh’s life forever.

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Vincent Van Gogh Cut Off His Left Ear

Right before Christmas 1988, when Vincent Van Gogh was just 35 years old, he cut off his left ear. This was the beginning of a period of uncertainty and severe mental illness. Several other crises and attacks followed, but it remains unclear exactly what Vincent was suffering from.

Vincent Van Gogh Depress

Since then, many have felt that Vincent was suffering from manic depression. We do not know this for certain as, at that time, manic depression was not a fully diagnosed disease. But we know that he chose to cut off his left ear, so whatever he was suffering had a huge impact on his life.

We know it was his left ear because Vincent van Gogh in his true style as a great artist, painted himself with a bandage on his left ear. Van Gogh showed us that he was not afraid to show the world he really was.

Events That Lead To The Ear Cutting Episode For Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent dreamed of having an artistic community in his yellow house in Arles, France. When the painter Paul Gauguin arrived in October 1888, he felt this dream finally come true.

The artists seemed to work happily side-by-side for a short time, but the situation between Gauguin and Van Gogh soon deteriorated. Discussions about art became more frequent and sometimes heated.

Some discussions were that Vincent felt it essential to work from reality, whereas Gauguin painted from memory or his imagination. The artistic differences discussions became very heated.

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (1889) By Vincent Van Gogh
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (1889) By Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh And The Cutting Off Of His Left Ear

The artistic and other differences became too much for Vincent van Gogh. The situation came to a head on 23 December 1888; after a heated argument, Vincent Van Gogh became confused and took a knife to cut off his left ear.

I cannot even imagine the pain of cutting off your ear. To be able to handle that kind of pain means Van Gogh was not in his right mind.

Van Gogh then wrapped the year in paper and took it to a prostitute in the village. We are not sure why he chose this particular prostitute and wrapped his ear in paper to give to her.

We know that the poor girl was so upset by the sight of Van Gogh’s bloody ear that she fainted. The entire brothel was in commotion at the sight of the cut-off ear.

Aftermath Of Vincent Van Gogh Cutting Off His Ear

Newsletter Report For Ear Incident Of Vincent Van Gogh

The situation came to a head on 23 December, 1888. After a heated argument, Vincent, in utter confusion, cut off his left ear.

He wrapped his ear in paper and took it to a prostitute in the village. The girl fainted and the entire brothel was in commotion. They called the police, who found the artist at his home the following morning. Vincent was hospitalised, and Gauguin returned to Paris.

The dream was shattered. There was an article in the local newspaper about the incident.

For English Version Of The Report Above

After the incident caused such a commotion that the brothel called the police. This was not even a small story; it became so important for the area that it made it to the front page of a local news newspaper on the 30th of December 1888.

I can imagine the people in the small town in France must’ve thought they had a madman living among them. Someone who not only cut off your ear but carried it to a local brothel and gave it to a girl.

The brothel was so upset by this incident and the commotion it caused that they called the police. The police found Vincent Van Gogh at his home the following morning and took him to the hospital.

During this same period, Gauguin returned to Paris and left Arles. Vincent Van Gogh’s dream of an artist colony at his Yellow House in Arles was utterly shattered.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Hospitalization In Arles

Vincent was in the hospital for less than one day when he received a visit from his beloved brother Theo. Theo heard about the accident and immediately traveled by train to be by his brother’s side.

We must give Theo a lot of credit for never giving up on Vincent Van Gogh. I can only think that he must have loved his brother, as this would not be the first nor the last time he left everything and rushed to be near his brother’s side.

Vincent also had other friends visiting him, including his friend Joseph Roulin, whom he often went for a drink or walk, and the Protestant Minister Frederic Salles. These two men were Vincent’s constant companions.

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) By Vincent Van Gogh
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) By Vincent Van Gogh

At the hospital, Vincent’s condition continued to deteriorate to such an extent that the hospital’s main physician told the city’s mayor that Vincent was suffering from Insanity and needed to be committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Fortunately, after they wanted to commit Van Gogh, he became better and was allowed to leave the hospital. In a letter to his brother Theo on 28 January 1889, just over 1 month from the time he cut off his ear, he wrote:

“Which I already find astonishing when I compare my state today with that of a month ago. I well knew that one could break one’s arms and legs before, and that then afterwards that could get better but I didn’t know that one could break one’s brain and that afterwards that got better too.”

Vincent Van gogh To Theo Van Gogh – 28 January 1889

Unfortunately, his recovery was short-lived; Van Gogh’s situation deteriorated. He started to have more attacks where he had no idea what he was saying or even where he was. It started to affect not only Vincent Van Gogh but all the people around him.

His friends and family were worried about him. His neighbors became afraid of him, as they were convinced he was a danger to himself and others.

The Neighborhood Petition To Commit Vincent Van Gogh And Police Close His Studio In Arles

At the end of February 1889, the situation between Vincent Van Gogh and his neighbors got so bad that his neighbors started a petition to get Vincent locked up in a psychiatric hospital. They believed that Vincent represented a threat to them.

Vincent was very sad to hear what his neighbors and others thought of him as he was not a danger to anyone. But he was shunned and looked down upon by his neighbors.

Because of the petition, the local chief of police took some action and locked up Vincent Van Gogh’s studio, making it impossible for him to paint. In remembering this terrible incident, Van Gogh wrote this in a letter to his brother Theo:

“I reproach myself for my cowardice, I ought to have defended my studio better, even if I had to fight with those gendarmes and neighbours. Others in my position would have used a revolver, and indeed, had one killed onlookers like that as an artist one would have been acquitted. I would have done better in that case then, and now I was cowardly and drunk.”

Vincent Van gogh To Theo Van Gogh – 10 September 1889

Fortunately, the police did not need to commit Vincent Van Gogh as a compulsory admission to a psychiatric hospital. As Vincent saw the situation was worsening and that something needed to be done, he devoted himself in May 1889 to the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Remy.

When we look at the incident of Vincent van Gogh cutting off his ear, we can see that one incident triggered many other incidents. Not only was he hospitalized, but he was also essentially kicked out of his studio and his home. His neighbors rose against him and tried to get him committed.

We can say that the problems with Paul Gauguin and the cutting off his ear started a downward spiral from which Vincent Van Gogh never fully recovered. Within one year, in late July 1890, Vincent Van Gogh would be dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear?

Van Gogh cut off his ear following a heated argument with fellow artist Paul Gauguin, which escalated due to artistic disagreements. The act is often seen as a manifestation of his mental struggles.

Which ear did Van Gogh cut off?

Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear during the infamous incident. He later depicted himself with a bandaged ear in several self-portraits.

How did the public react to Van Gogh cutting off his ear?

The local newspaper featured the ear-cutting incident on its front page, drawing significant attention. This event marked a turning point in Van Gogh’s life and added to the mystique surrounding his art.

Did Van Gogh continue to paint after cutting off his ear?

Yes, despite the traumatic incident, Van Gogh continued to paint. He created several self-portraits, capturing himself with the bandaged ear, reflecting his determination to persist in his artistic endeavors.

What was the aftermath of Van Gogh cutting off his ear?

The ear-cutting incident led to Van Gogh’s hospitalization, and he spent some time in a mental institution. It was a pivotal moment in his life that impacted his mental health and artistic career.

Did Paul Gauguin play a significant role in the ear-cutting incident?

Yes, the disagreement with Paul Gauguin played a crucial role in the ear-cutting incident. The strained relationship between the two artists contributed to the emotional turmoil that Van Gogh experienced.

How did Van Gogh represent his bandaged ear in his paintings?

Van Gogh created self-portraits with a bandaged ear, providing a visual record of his physical and emotional state during that period. These paintings offer insights into the artist’s perception of himself and his struggles.

Did the ear-cutting incident impact Van Gogh’s relationship with Gauguin?

The ear-cutting incident strained Van Gogh’s relationship with Gauguin, leading to Gauguin leaving Arles. The incident marked the end of their artistic collaboration and deepened Van Gogh’s sense of isolation.

How did the public view Van Gogh after the ear incident?

The public’s perception of Van Gogh was mixed. Some saw him as a troubled artist, while others may have misunderstood or sensationalized the event. It contributed to the complex legacy and mythology surrounding the artist.

Did Van Gogh’s ear-cutting incident impact his later works and legacy?

The ear-cutting incident, along with its repercussions, had a lasting impact on Van Gogh’s life and art. It is considered a pivotal moment in his biography, influencing the themes and emotions expressed in his later works, and contributing to the enduring fascination with his legacy.

Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Commit Suicide?

Vincent Van Gogh had a mental illness; many believe he was manic-depressive. He was also very 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.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Commit Suicide?

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?

Doctor Who’s “Exploding Tardis” By Vincent Van Gogh – Fact Or Fiction?

The Exploding Tardis by Vincent Van Gogh is a fictional painting in the British television series Season 5. The painting is roughly based on Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting, but Vincent Van Gogh did not paint the painting. The Doctor Who story and this painting are entirely fictional.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Doctor Who’s “Exploding Tardis” By Vincent Van Gogh – Fact Or Fiction?.

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