On this day in history, Dec. 23, 1888, Dutch impressionist Vincent van Gogh cuts off his ear
Vincent van Gogh, the brilliant but troubled Dutch impressionist painter, severed his left ear after a “blazing row” with fellow artist Paul Gaugin in Arles, France, on this day in history, Dec. 23, 1888.
The 35-year-old artist famously presented the bloody ear lobe to a female acquaintance outside a brothel. She collapsed from shock.
The incident highlighted a tragic descent into madness , punctuated with stunning displays of productivity & genius in van Gogh’s final months on Earth.
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“Although he sold only one painting during his lifetime, Van Gogh is now one of the most popular artists of all time,” the Art Story Foundation writes in its biography of the painter, calling him an “iconic, tortured artist. “
His “radically idiosyncratic, emotionally evocative style has continued to affect artists and movements throughout the 20th century and up to the present day, guaranteeing Van Gogh’s importance far into the future. “
“Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe, February 1889” (1947). Van Gogh (1853-1890) cut off his ear with a razor during one of his periods of mental illness. Private collection. From “Vincent Van Gogh,” by Ludwig Goldscheider and Wilhelm Uhde (Phaidon Press Ltd, Oxford and London, 1947). Artist Vincent van Gogh.
(Photo by The Print Collector via Getty Images)
The notorious act of self-mutilation still haunts the art world and fascinates people today. Some art historians believe that the story includes inaccuracy and hazy legend.
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“For a long time, the accepted story was that van Gogh gifted the bloody appendage to a woman named Rachel, a prostitute at the brothel [that] van Gogh frequented while living in Arles, in southern France,” notes the Berkeley Library at the University of California, in a 2019 interview with Irish art historian Bernadette Murphy. He gave the woman a listening ear outside the brothel, and told her to ‘keep that object carefully’, according to a local newspaper report. “
“Although he sold only one painting during his lifetime, Van Gogh is now one of the most popular artists of all time. “
The woman was “traumatized” upon receiving the blood-soaked ear lobe, Murphy said, while adding that the woman was a cleaner, not a prostitute, and her name was Gaby, not Rachel.
Saint Remy, June 1889. Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4 inches (73.7 x 92.1 cm). Located at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York.
(Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
“Gaby also worked at a cafe that van Gogh visited regularly, suggesting a closer connection between the pair than was previously believed,” according to the Berkeley Library account. Van Gogh was admitted to an asylum in May.
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The incident preceded one of the most brilliant periods of artistic expression in van Gogh’s brief, inglorious-in-his-own-time career as an artist.
He painted the dour “Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear” in early 1889 while recovering from his wounds.
“The Starry Night” was painted in June 1889 while van Gogh was in an asylum in St. Remy, France.
“The Starry Night,” perhaps van Gogh’s most famous and most critically acclaimed work, was painted in June 1889 while van Gogh was in an asylum in St. Remy, France. He created “Wheatfield With Cypresses”, another of his most acclaimed pieces, in July.
The Drouot auction house in Paris has the pistol that van Gogh is believed to have used to shoot himself.
(FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Van Gogh, tired of the frenetic pace after living for two years in Paris, fled for France’s Mediterranean coast, arriving in the Rhone River village of Arles by train on Feb. 20, 1888. He longed for peace and quiet in the countryside, and for the sun and light of ‘Japanese landscapes’, which he hoped to see in Provence, in South France.
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“With this ‘artists’ colony’ in mind, Vincent rented four rooms in the ‘Yellow House’ on Place Lamartine. Paul Gauguin was the first and, as it turned out, the only artist to move in with him. The museum reports that their artistic and personal differences became increasingly hostile.
Van Gogh died of a gunshot wound to the chest to the chest, reportedly self-inflicted, on July 29, 1890.
“Vincent began to display signs of agitation and when Gauguin threatened to leave, the pressure became too much. Van Gogh became so upset that he threatened Gauguin with a razor. Later that night, Van Gogh cut off his own ear at Yellow House, wrapped it with newspaper, and presented it to a prostitute from the nearby red-light district. “
Van Gogh died of a gunshot wound to the chest, reportedly self-inflicted, on July 29, 1890. Some historians believe he was murdered.
The weapon believed used to kill him sold for $182,000 at a Paris auction in 2019.
Vincent van Gogh was just 37 years old when he died.
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“Starry, starry night/Paint your palette blue and gray/Look out on a summer’s day/With eyes that know the darkness in my soul,” American songwriter Don McLean wrote in “Vincent,” his achingly beautiful 1971 hit song and ode to the artist’s troubled mind. They wouldn’t listen, they didn’t know how/Perhaps now they will listen. “
Kerry J. Byrne, a Fox News Digital lifestyle reporter, is here.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.