Thursday, January 3, 2013

Vincent van Gogh: End (1886-1890)

Life as a Painter (continued)
In Paris (1886-1888)
Vincent moved to Paris in March 1886 and shared the flat of his brother Theo. He continued to be a prolific painter. During this time he created a series of paintings of the neighborhood of Montmartre where he and Theo lived. He also painted portraits of people he knew. One of these, Julien "Père" Tanguy, owned the art supplies store which also served as a gallery and gathering place for Vincent and other young painters.

Theo introduced Vincent to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cèzanne, Henri Rousseau, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat. Inspired by the brighter colors of their paintings, Vincent finally embraced and explored them with vigor.

In Southern France (1888-1890) 
In February 1888 Vincent decided to flee an exhausting Paris by moving to Arles in southern France. An eyewitness at the time described him as slovenly, rude, cranky, and sick. While all this was true, his creativity and productivity remained impressive.

In October, Paul Gauguin joined him in Arles. Vincent hoped the two would be able to live and work together as an embryonic utopian art colony. In preparation for Paul’s visit, Vincent created a series of paintings of sunflowers. In response, Paul painted Vincent creating one of these paintings.

In only two months, the relationships between the two painters badly deteriorated. Vincent confronted Paul with a straight razor but then fled without doing any harm. Later that night, however, Vincent used the razor to cut off his own left ear. He wrapped the ear in newspaper and gave it to a prostitute for safekeeping. He then staggered home where he was found unconscious and taken to the hospital. A few days later, Paul—refusing Vincent’s repeated requests for a visit—left for Paris where he told Theo about Vincent. Theo then went to Arles to look after him.

In May 1889 Vincent entered Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, about 12.5 miles (20 km) south of Arles. He remained there for a year. He continued to paint and one of his most famous creations, The Starry Night, dates from this period.

Near Paris (May-July 1890)
In May 1890, Vincent moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, a village about 19 miles (30 km) northwest of Paris. He moved there to become a patient of Paul Gachet and to live much closer to his brother Theo. Theo had recommended the doctor to Vincent because he had already successfully treated other artists such as Camille Pissarro, Pierre Renoir, Édouard Manet, and Paul Cezanne.

Vincent continued to develop creatively and a portrait of the doctor painted during this time is among his best. All to no purpose: on July 27 he was shot in the chest. Whether he shot himself or was shot by someone else is disputed. Strangely enough, the bullet did not hit any arteries or internal organs. After being shot, Vincent walked back to his room, was seen by Gachet, and then was left to enjoy smoking his pipe. When notified of Vincent's condition, Theo rushed to his side. Hours later, Vincent started ailing from an infection caused by the shot and died of it early in the morning of July 29. He was buried in the local cemetery.

Vincent was an artist for only ten years. Even so, he created over 2,100 works of art including 860 oil paintings. He created his most famous works, including The Starry Night, during the last two amazingly creative years of his life.

At the same time, Vincent’s sole source of emotional and financial support during his life as an artist was his younger brother Theo. Otherwise he felt socially isolated and personally despised. Vincent also believed he was a professional failure. His artistic colleagues did not appreciate his works. Only one of his paintings sold during his lifetime. Only years after his death did widespread appreciation of his work grow. Ironically, his Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $82.5 million dollars in 1990—exactly 100 years after he painted it but received nothing for it.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.