Was Vincent  van Gogh a tormented genius and why was that so? How could that be?Was Vincent  van Gogh a tormented genius and why was that so? How could that be?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Van Gogh was a tortured individual. That seems fairly clear from his biography.

His parents lost a baby in childbirth exactly one year to the day before Vincent Van Gogh was born. The still-born baby's name was also Vincent.

This apparently haunted Vincent Van Gogh and he felt he had to live for two. Later he was rejected in love by a cousin of his and was crushed. He turned to religion and attempted to become a monk or priest and, though he was given an official title by the church, his title was revoked when the church discovered that Van Gogh had given all his clothes away to the peasants in his town and was wearing clothes made of paper.

This all sounds a bit crazy, I know. But it all leads up to the more famous episodes of his life. After taking up art at the age of 27, Van Gogh painted for ten years, selling one piece of art in that time, attempting to build an arts colony in Arles. One other artist did come, Gaugin, and Van Gogh at one point attacked him with a razor then cut part of his own ear off.

The town of Arles took a vote and democratically decided to lock Van Gogh in an asylum. Later he was released and shot himself with a shotgun. It took him a long time to die.

None of this says he was a genius, though I would agree that he probably was, but it should go a long way to demonstrating that he was a tortured soul.

psmortimer's profile pic

psmortimer | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

This is a bit of a loaded question. I personally believe that Van Gogh was brilliant and most certainly had his share of issues. It is doubtful that the public will ever truly know the extent of Van Gogh's mental and physical ailments. It is known that Van Gogh spent a great deal of time battling various illnesses, many that left him weak and some that caused a feverish or hallucinogenic state of mind. Add in isolation and it is easy to see where it all began.

By today's standards Van Gogh would be diagnosed as bi-polar, most definitely. He was also into self-mutilation. However, researchers today believe that the famous ear episode was caused by an incurable bout of tinnitus, which eventually drove him mad until he cut off his ear to stop the noise. Of course it did not work.

In the late 1880s Van Gogh signed himself into the asylum at Saint-Remy, France. While there Van Gogh created his best and most famous works. Van Gogh committed suicide at age 37.

raiteiericko's profile pic

raiteiericko | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

bi-polar, self-mutilation, tinnitus...
Could this possibly the source inspiration for him?

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