Sunday, March 12, 2006

Van Gogh's crisis

In the Telegraph: an extract from Martin Gayford's forthcoming book, The Yellow House. Gauguin and Van Gogh shared a yellow house in Arles. Van Gogh suffered bizarre symptoms (reviewed here). Gauguin was overwhelmed. Van Gogh asked: are you planning to leave? Yes, said Gauguin.
...Later in the evening, around 10.30pm to 11pm, he took the razor with which he sometimes shaved his beard and cut off his own left ear - or perhaps just the lower part of it (accounts differ). In this process, his auricular artery was severed, which caused blood to spurt and spray...
After he had staunched the gore pumping from his head with the linen which he had bought so proudly for the Yellow House, he put the little amputated fragment of himself - having first washed it carefully, according to Gauguin - in an envelope of newspaper (perhaps that morning's L'Intransigeant).

Then he put on a hat, pulled right down on the injured side of his head - Gauguin recalled that it was a beret, perhaps Gauguin's own, left lying around after his abrupt departure. Vincent went out across Place Lamartine once more, through the gateway in the town wall, turned left and then took the second turning on the left, and walked to the brothel at No 1, Rue Bout d'Arles. There he asked the man on the door if he could see a girl named Rachel, and delivered his grisly package...
Gauguin described what happened when Vincent was taken to the hospital:
"His state is worse, he wants to sleep with the patients, chases the nurses, and washes himself in the coal bucket. That is to say, he continues the biblical mortifications..."
Extracted from 'The Yellow House' by Martin Gayford to be published by Fig Tree on April 6 at £18.99. Copyright © Martin Gayford 2006.

More on the debate about Van Gogh's diagnosis: here.


Blogger Raine said...

you know that brings up something that has been disturbing me for some time- I am bi-polar and have constant tinnitus. The psychiatrists often disgnose this as audial hallucinations but I'm thinking this isnt so, but that it IS a symptom of the bi-polar. I do not get fully manic, just hypomanic, I do not hallucinate or get psychotic. But what really interests me is every single bi-polar that I encounter in blogs or chat rooms also has tinnitus- no matter what degree of mania or depression they have. I really wish someone would do study on it and figure out what it is, what causes it and how to get rid of it

8:40 PM  
Blogger BiPolar Guy said...

Irving Stone's book on van Gogh "Lust for Life" is good to.

Here's a quote:

" 'You are a grand nerveux, Vincent,' Doctor Rey had told him. 'You never have been normal. But then, no artist is normal; if he were he wouldn't be an artist. Normal men don't create works of art. They eat, sleep, hold down routine jobs and die. You are hypersensitive to life and nature; that's why you are able to interpret for the rest of us. But if you are not careful, that very hypersensitiveness will lead to your destruction. The strain of it breaks every artist in time.'

Vincent knew that to attain the high yellow note which dominated his Arlesian canvasses he had to be on edge, strung up, throbbingly excited, passionately sensitive, his nerves rasped raw. If he allowed himself to get into that state, he could paint again as brilliantly as he had before. "

If that's not BiPolar, I'll eat my cap

8:47 AM  
Blogger Greg P said...

I have a book called "In His Own Words", which is one of a series of books containing correspondence from artists, mostly unedited, of Van Gogh's letters.

What was interesting as I read it, was that, at the same time this man was supposedly going mad, he was quite prolific with his artwork, and his letters were quite lucid. One doesn't get the sense of someone who was psychotic, or even manic.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Fallen Angels said...

My bipolar friends are lucid when they are manic or hypomanic. sometimes I don't even know they are on an upswing unless I am told so. It's impossible to see their racing thoughts when reading something they have written or in an instant message either...unless you are very attuned to the topic changes that *may* (not always) happen. Sometimes when my dear friend is hypomanic she is extremely lucid, extremely focused and can speak prolifically on one topic...does endless research to educate herself on that topic...etc.

9:45 AM  

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