Friday, October 09, 2015

The Eerie Ear Deal

October 9, 2015
   It is my humble opinion that in the long, bizarre history of the world, the Vincent van Gogh "ear deal" is by far the strangest, most outrageous act an artist has ever pulled off. Suffer for your art, yeh, been done a bunch, even by me. Die for your art? Thought about it, got a good night's sleep and moved on. But cut off your EAR? That is just off the charts crazy. How in the world did he even think of this, much less, consider doing it? Here's the lead up to the bloody event:

Daily Whip Out: "Van Gogh's Eerie Ear, Take III"

   In August of 1888 Vincent was painting up a storm in his Yellow House, in the south of France, anticipating the arrival of fellow artist Paul Gauguin, so they could join forces and begin creating an artistic utopia of shared vision and a solid front. "If we have [Gauguin]," he wrote Theo, "we can't lose."

Losing It, Part I
   But the former stockbroker with a family of six to support, had other ideas. In fact, Gauguin began making noises that he wouldn't come to Arles to join Vincent.  This amped up Van Gogh's already frail nervous system as he started working even harder in the daytime, plying himself with endless cups of coffee, sometimes laced with rum, and then capping off his long days in the evenings with absinth. "If the storm roars too loudly," he wrote Theo, "I take a glass too many to stun myself." He also punished himself with starvation (something he used to to do in his missionary days) and he cut off his beard and shaved his head. Strike one.

Dark Clouds Ahead
   Into this jagged mess of a mental state, Vincent received news that his rich uncle Cent (also named Vincent but everyone called him Cent for short) had died and in his last will and testament he lavished large sums of money on family and even distant relatives, but he ripped his nephew a new one in his will: "I want to make the clear statement that it is my intention that Vincent Willem van Gogh, oldest son of my brother Theodorus van Gogh, will have no share of my estate." Strike two.

The Silver Lining Paintbook
   In the midst of this turmoil, Vincent painted his "Sunflowers" and "Starry Night On The Rhome River," and "The Poet." Masterpieces all. But he will pay a terrible price for his over-heated exertions. 

The Loser Has Landed
   After almost a year of promising, Gauguin finally shows up at the Yellow House and the conflicts begin immediately. Gauguin complains about the cold, the wind and the miserable food. He hates the color of the house: "Shit, shit, everything is yellow," he complains. Gauguin believes in slow and deliberate work, turning out three paintings where Vincent churns out a dozen. Gauguin doesn't believe in painting from real life, but rather conjuring images in his imagination. He mocks Vincent's "Night Cafe" by painting his own version, totally done from his imagination and never spending a second with easel on the exact location. Van Gogh is crushed (both are excellent paintings with Vincent getting a little extra juice out of the subject, in my opinion). By mid-December, Gauguin has had enough and dropped the bomb, "I am obliged to return to Paris," he wrote Theo, and with that, all of Vincent's dreams of an artistic collective went up in smoke. Strike three.

"A canvas needs to be seduced; but van Gogh, he, he raped it."
 —The Zouave Milliet
Coming Next: The slash and burn

1 comment:

  1. I've been following your Van Gogh story with rapped interest. I recently had the thrill of seeing his Iris painting at the Minneapolis Museum of Art as it was on loan until Oct.4th. Thank you Bob for diverting, at least for awhile, from the great stories of the Old West and sharing with those of us who appreciate it, this wonderful Van Gogh journey.


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