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.
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.
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 artist 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,
Van Gogh And The Cutting Off Of His Left Ear
The artistic and other differences became too much for Vincent van Gogh to handle. 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
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.For English Version Of The Report Above
The dream was shattered. There was an article in the local newspaper about the incident.
After the incident, it caused such a commotion that the brothel called the police. This was not even a small story; it became such an important story for the area that it even made it on the front page of a local news newspaper on the 30th of December 1888.
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 by Carrie year 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 completely 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.
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:
Unfortunately, his recovery was short-lived; Van Gogh’s situation continued to deteriorate. 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:
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 committed 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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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.
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.
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?.