Thursday, June 12, 2014

Post-Impressionism (pt. 13)

Vincent Van Gogh was a troubled man.  He suffered from severe bouts of depression and loneliness.  A smoker and a drinker of absinthe, he is also believed to have suffered from the hallucinogenic effects of turpentine, a chemical found in many oil paints which, if ingested, can cause serious side effects.  Artists of the time who would commonly rest the tip of their paintbrushes in their mouths for meditation while painting could run the risk of acquiring turpentine poisoning.  Although much debate surrounds the cause of Van Gogh's mental illness, we do know that he was in fact ill—and Van Gogh knew it, too.  Shortly after cutting off his own ear (which he then wrapped in newspaper and handed to a prostitute at a nearby brothel), he was admitted to a hospital, where his condition continued to deteriorate.  When he was finally released, Van Gogh, knowing he was not well, checked himself into an asylum in Saint-Rémy, where he would spend the next year of his life.
From this asylum, Van Gogh painted some of his most memorable paintings.  Perhaps their celebrity comes partially from the significance of the artist having painted them while a patient in a mental hospital; with that context no doubt emerge special meanings and added, psychological interest.  The study almost becomes subjective when trying to appreciate such artwork, but for their sheer artistic value we will take a look.

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