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Vincent Van Gogh - THE BANDAGED EAR

THE BANDAGED EAR (Illustration) Biographies Famous People Geography Social Studies Visual Arts Famous Historical Events Nineteenth Century Life

About eleven months after he moved to Arles, in the south of France, Vincent endured one of his traumatic moments in life. The episode caused him to harm his ear. This image, one of his self-portraits, depicts the aftermath of that episode. The oil-on-canvas, which measures 60 x 49 cm, is entitled “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.” Vincent created it during January of 1889, and it is currently maintained at London’s Courtauld Gallery. Click on the image for a better view.

 

Notwithstanding his own lack of commercial success, Vincent still wanted Gauguin to join him in Arles.

After Theo received an inheritance from his uncle, he paid for Gauguin's trip. His motives weren't entirely altruistic. Beyond desiring a stable environment for Vincent, Theo believed that Gauguin's paintings - which were starting to get noticed - would generate income. Subsidizing Gauguin would thus be a good investment for Theo.

Gauguin arrived in Arles on the 23rd of October, 1888. At first, the two artists got along well, and they painted together. But when the weather turned cold, forcing them to stay inside, Vincent got irritable - as he often did during dreary days - and the artists quarreled.

It helped somewhat when van Gogh painted several portraits of each member of the Joseph Roulin family, but by late December the Gauguin-van Gogh relationship had changed dramatically.

Vincent's mental health was deteriorating as fast as his eroding rapport with Gauguin. Becoming irrational on the 23rd of December, Vincent turned a razor on himself, severing the lower part of his left ear.

Greatly weakened due to loss of blood, he collapsed after he returned to the yellow house. The local police brought him to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital (todaycalled L'Espace) in Arles where he was cared for by Dr. Felix Rey.

Gauguin telegraphed Theo with the distressing news, then left for Paris. He never saw Vincent again, although they periodically corresponded.

Sure his brother was dying, Theo briefly stayed with Vincent (depicted here with a bandaged ear) who actually made a very quick physical recovery. But the early part of 1889 was difficult for van Gogh. His good friend, Joseph Roulin, accepted a higher-paying position in Marseilles.

If Monsieur Roulin left, with his family, Vincent would lose the companionship of someone he liked and trusted.

Back to being creative, van Gogh produced some of his most well-known (and beloved) paintings during January and early February of 1889. On the 7th of February, however, he imagined that he was being poisoned and was readmitted, for observation, to Hôtel-Dieu.

Returning to the yellow house, Vincent was hopeful he was well enough to continue working. But his neighbors in Arles were concerned about his bizarre behavior. They sent a petition to the local officials who ordered Vincent back to the hospital. He stayed there for six weeks, leaving the premises on supervised outings so he could paint.

Some of Van Gogh's paintings, during this time of anguish, were remarkable. But even Vincent was worried about himself.

He agreed with Theo that he should seek treatment and voluntarily checked into the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (just northeast of Arles).

Van Gogh left Arles on the 8th of May, 1889. He would remain at the asylum for about a year.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2008

Updated Last Revision: Mar 28, 2015


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