Interesting Facts About Vincent Van Goghjames
He is not the only Vincent in the van Gogh family
His grandfather was also named Vincent. The artist’s uncle whom he referred to in his letters as “Uncle Cent” also shares the same name. A year before Vincent was born, his mother gave birth to a stillborn son which they named Vincent Willem van Gogh. His brother Theo would later name his son after the artist.
He became a pastor before he was a painter
In May 1877, Van Gogh went to stay with his uncle Jan van Gogh in Amsterdam to study theology. In July 1878, he took a three-month course at the Vlaamsche Opleidingsschool in Laeken, near Brussels. He failed both courses because of his refusal to take the Latin exams. He thought that Latin was a dead language and not suitable for preaching to the poor. In January 1879, he took a temporary post as a missionary in the coal-mining district of Borinage where he ministered to the poor and the sick and gave away all his possessions. The evangelical committee was not pleased with his zeal so they dismissed him and refused to renew his contract.
He wanted to establish an art community
When Vincent moved to Arles in 1888, he was captivated by the local landscape and light. He embarked on a project to establish a community of artists. He rented a home he called the “Yellow House” which was supposed to serve as a studio and invited Gauguin to join him. This dream of a utopian art colony is one of the reasons why he didn’t want Gauguin to leave.
The ear cutting incident may not have been self-inflicted
Van Gogh and Gauguin often argued about art when they stayed together in Arles. One incident led to Van Gogh severing his left ear. The only account about the incident comes from Gauguin. According to Gauguin, he left the house after a heated argument. Vincent followed him with on the street holding a razor but rather than attacking him, he returned home and cut off part of his ear. He wrapped it in a newspaper then gave it to a prostitute. Vincent had no recollection of the incident but two German academics have suggested that Gauguin, who was an expert fencer, may have sliced off a portion of van Gogh’s ear during a dispute. According to this theory, Vincent may have been covering for him to prevent Gauguin from going to jail.
Vincent had a tragic love life
In London, he fell in love with his landlady’s daughter, Eugenie Loyer. Eugenie rejected him saying that she was already engaged to a previous tenant. Vincent seemed to be attracted to older troubled women. He proposed marriage to his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos-Stricker, who was seven years older than him. Kee responded with “no, nay, never”. He had a relationship with Sien Hoornik, an alcoholic prostitute who was pregnant and already had a child. He was pressured by his parents to leave Sien. In Neunen, he and Margot, a woman ten years his senior, decided to marry but both their families opposed. Margot attempted suicide but she survived when Van Gogh brought her to a hospital. In 1887, he began a relationship with a cafe owner named Agostina Segatori but they eventually agreed to separate.
Vincent had a bit of a naughty streak
He and Gauguin used to frequent a maison de tolérance, a semi-legal bordello in Arles. It was that brothel where Van Gogh handed his ear lobe to a prostitute named Rachel. It has been speculated that they were arguing about the prostitute before the ear cutting incident happened. When Vincent was in the hospital in Arles, he may also have tried to engage in raunchy acts. Gauguin wrote in a letter, “His state is worse, he wants to sleep with the patients, chase the nurses, and washes himself in the coal bucket. That is to say, he continues the biblical mortifications”. It might have been one of his psychotic episodes but it still sounds quite risque.
He was accused of raping one of his models
When he was painting peasant life in Neunen in September 1885, one of his young peasant sitters became pregnant. Vincent was accused of forcing himself upon her. The village priest forbade parishioners from modelling for him.
He liked to drink and smoke
Although the doctors who treated Vincent did not diagnose him as an “absintheur”, it has been speculated that the effect of thujone poisoning from his consumption of absinthe might have aggravated his mental condition. When he moved to Arles in 1888, he was already suffering from smoker’s cough. He spent his last hours smoking his pipe when he was already dying from a gunshot wound.
Several diagnoses have been proposed by researchers for his mental condition
Vincent was diagnosed with epilepsy by Dr. Felix Rey at the Old Hospital in Arles. Through the various symptoms described in his letters and other documents, researchers have suggested various other diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, sunstroke, Meniere’s disease, lead poisoning and acute intermittent porphyria. It has also been speculated that Van Gogh had syphilis but it has been ruled out due to the timeline.
He was heavily influenced by Japanese art
Japanese art was introduced in huge numbers to Europe in 1854 through fans, porcelains, woodcuts and screens. During the 1860s, Japanese woodblock prints called ukiyo-e became popular with many impressionists and post-impressionists. Vincent collected and studied ukiyo-e and used them to decorate the walls of his studio. He also incorporated their style into the background of some of his paintings. In 1888, Vincent wrote “all my work is based to some extent on Japanese art”.
Some of his artworks were lost or destroyed
Theo’s wife Jo inerited a large collection of Vincent’s paintings and tried to collect as many more as she could, but discovered that many of them had been destroyed or lost. She also found out that Vincent’s mother threw away crates full of his work.
Eight of his works are currently in the list of the most expensive paintings
L’Allee des Alyscamps was sold in May 2015 for $66.3 million. Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat was sold for $47.5 million in 1997 with an adjusted price of $69.8 million. Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers which was sold in 1987 for $39.7 million is now worth $81.9 million. A Wheatfield with Cypresses which was sold for $57 million in 1993 is now valued at $93.1 million. His Self-portrait without a beard which was sold in 1998 for $71.5 million is worth $103.5 million today. His painting of Irises which was sold for $53.9 million in 1987 is now valued at $111.9 million. The Portrait of Joseph Roulin which was sold in 1989 for $58 million is now valued at $114.2 million. The Portrait of Dr. Gatchet was sold in 1990 for $82.5 million but it is now valued at $148.9 million when adjusted for inflation.