Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Commit Suicide?

One of the greatest artistic mysteries of the late 19th century is Vincent Van Gogh and his committing suicide. When we read and study Van Gogh’s life, we discover some reasons why he may have taken his own life.

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.

Some Reasons Vincent Van Gogh Committed Suicide

We can never honestly know or understand why another person may choose the act of killing themselves or taking their own life. Like many other people who have chosen this, we can try to pick up the pieces of Vincent Van Gogh’s life to discover some of the reasons why he may have chosen to commit suicide.

Van Gogh Could Have Had Manic Depression

Vincent Van Gogh was plagued by psychiatric illnesses his entire life. Medical evidence suggests that he was manic-depressive, a chronic mental illness affecting many people, including creative people.

Many of the drugs and therapy available today for manic depression were not available during the time of Vincent Van Gogh. At the same time, many drugs we use today to treat manic depression are also known to stifle creativity.

It is believed that Vincent Van Gogh was treated with a drug known as digitalis. People who receive large repeat doses of digitalis can see the world with a yellow-green tint. They can also complain of yellow spots surrounding their corneas, like the dots in Van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night.

In his painting of his physician Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, we can see in one of the three paintings Van Gogh painted of the doctor that he is holding a foxglove plant stem. The foxglove plant is known to be used to produce the digitalis drug.

Vincent Van Gogh Admitted Himself To the Asylum At Saint-Remy

Vincent Van Gogh understood he had some mental illness. That is why he admitted himself to the institution in Saint- Remy.

Just before Christmas in 1888, Vincent Van Gogh was 35 years old when he cut off his left ear. What started then was several months of hospitalization and other events that led to his neighbors signing a petition to have him be committed.

You can read about the many fascinating events that led up to his cutting off his ear and how that event spiraled down from there by reading ”What Ear Did Van Gogh Cut Off Left Or Right? And Other Facts” by clicking here.

Luckily Van Gogh never had to be forcibly committed, but he saw that the situation was worsening. Hence, he was committed to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital in Saint-Remy in May 1889.

Vincent Van Gogh Was Feeling Very Sad And Losing His Will To Live

From many of the letters Vincent wrote to his brother Theo and others, we know how he felt about life; he was lonely. Van Gogh’s neighbors had signed a petition to get him committed.

He knew that he had a mental illness that was plaguing him. We know from his letters that he felt sad about life and that his will to live was waning.

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

“Now the shock had been such that it disgusted me even to move, and nothing would have been so agreeable to me as never to wake up again. At present this horror of life is already less pronounced, and the melancholy less acute. But I still have absolutely no will, hardly any desires or none, and everything that has to do with ordinary life, the desire for example to see friends again, about whom I think however, almost nil. That’s why I’m not yet at the point where I ought to leave here soon, I would still have melancholy for everything. And it’s even only in these very last days that the repulsion for life has changed quite radically. There’s still a way to go from there to will and action.”

Vincent Van Gogh To Theo Van Gogh – 23 may 1889

Vincent Van Gogh Was Worried About Money

Even though Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most successful artists ever, he sold very few paintings in his lifetime; he depended on others, such as his brother Theo for support.

His brother Theo had gotten married. He had a wife and now a baby son to look after. Vincent was aware of his financial burden on everyone, especially his family members and brother Theo.

In a letter to Theo, he wrote:

“But no matter what one does, the question of money is always there like the enemy before the troops, and one can’t deny it or forget it. 

I retain my duties in that respect as much as anyone. And perhaps some day I’ll be in a position to repay all that I’ve spent, because I consider that what I’ve spent is, if not taken from you at least taken from the family, so consequently I’ve produced paintings and I’ll do more. That is to act as you too act yourself. If I had private means, perhaps my mind would be freer to do art for art’s sake, now I content myself with believing that in working assiduously even so, without thinking of it one perhaps makes some progress.”

Vincent Van Gogh To Theo Van Gogh – 23 may 1889

Vincent Van Gogh understood he was a burden to his brother Theo and his family. He knew he was not selling paintings and felt he was in financial trouble.

Yet, at the same time, his illness stopped him from being as productive as he had hoped. Vincent Van Gogh stayed in the Psychiatric hospital for one year. He was feeling trapped in the hospital and was longing to be able to paint.

After he had been there for a year, he decided to move to Auvers, France, as he would be closer to his brother Theo. Dr. Gachet, who lived in Auvers, was asked to take care and watch out for Vincent.

Vincent Van Gogh Found It Difficult To Deal With An Uncertain Future

Vincent Van Gogh found it increasingly difficult to deal with the uncertainty of his future. He depended on others for support, and he knew he was financially straining his brother Theo and his family.

He must have also felt a sense of failure in not seeing the financial rewards he hoped to see. And from his letters in his final months, we know he increasingly felt lonely and depressed.

Yet those same months when he was feeling so sad and lonely were also some of his most productive months. During his time in Auvers and until his untimely death, Vincent Van Gogh produced over 75 paintings and over one hundred sketches.

We never know what goes into another person’s mind for them to decide to kill themselves, but we do know that Vincent Van Gogh had a mental illness. We also know he was sad and lonely and worried about finances.

All of these things, including the mental illness he was suffering, led to his untimely death.

When Vincent Van Gogh died, the world lost a great artist too soon.

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How Does Van Gogh Sign His Paintings?

Vincent Van Gogh usually signed his paintings simply ”Vincent” with a line under his name. Sometimes he would add a date and others an inscription if the painting was for a friend. He usually signed his paintings on the left-hand side, but other times he signed his name on the object of the painting.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading How Does Van Gogh Sign His Paintings?.

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?.

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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Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Commit Suicide?