New theory about Van Gogh’s ear

This video is called Vincent van Gogh – The story.

From The Sunday Times in London:

December 27, 2009

Found: the clue to van Gogh’s ear

Richard Brooks, Arts Editor

The mystery behind the most famous mutilation in art history may finally have been solved.

A scholar has found evidence that a distraught Vincent van Gogh slashed his ear after learning that his brother, Theo, on whom he depended financially and emotionally, was about to get married.

Martin Bailey, who has written a book on van Gogh and curated two exhibitions of his work, devised his theory after meticulous detective work on a letter in a painting that the artist completed soon after he injured himself.

Bailey concludes that this letter was written by Theo from Paris in December 1888 and contained news of his engagement. This, he believes, tipped Vincent, who was already psychologically disturbed, into self-harm.

“Vincent was fearful that he might lose his brother’s emotional and financial support,” writes Bailey in the January edition of The Art Newspaper.

For years disputes have raged over what really happened to van Gogh’s ear just before Christmas 1888. Some have blamed his mental illness, others have said he was driven mad by lead in his paints. The breakdown of his friendship with Paul Gauguin, his fellow artist, has also been cited, although it is claimed that Gauguin made up this story himself.

Academics at Hamburg University argued recently that Gauguin, with whom van Gogh shared a house at Arles in the south of France, cut the ear in a quarrel over a prostitute called Rachel.

This theory was dismissed by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and by Bailey.

Van Gogh gave ample evidence of his mental instability when, 19 months after the ear was cut, he shot himself in the chest and died from his wounds two days later.

Still Life: Drawing Board, Pipe, Onions and Sealing-Wax, by Van Gogh

Bailey assembled his evidence partly from close study of van Gogh’s Still Life: Drawing Board with Onions. The work was completed at the beginning of 1889, just a month after his injury. It will be the star painting at a new exhibition opening in January at the Royal Academy around the theme of van Gogh and his letters.

It includes an envelope on a table. Bailey examined it microscopically and found the number 67 inside a circle. This was the official mark of a post office in Place des Abbesses, close to the apartment in Montmartre occupied by Theo, an art dealer who regularly provided money for Vincent.

7 thoughts on “New theory about Van Gogh’s ear

  1. Pingback: ‘Van Gogh murdered, not suicide’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  4. A German museum has put on display a copy of Vincent van Gogh’s ear that was grown using some of the Dutch artist’s genetic material.

    The 19-century painter is said to have cut off his own left ear during a psychotic episode in 1888.

    The Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe says the replica ear consists of living cells grown from samples provided by Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo.

    The museum says Lieuwe and Vincent van Gogh share about one sixteenth of the same genes, including the Y-chromosome that is passed down the male lineage.

    Artist Diemut Strebe told the Associated Press on Tuesday that she wanted to combine art and science.

    Strebe plans to display the ear in New York next year.


  5. Pingback: Colours in painting, video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: Loving Vincent van Gogh, film review | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: New Van Gogh drawing discovered | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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