Little Bits of History

Vincent van Gogh

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 27, 2015
Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

July 27, 1890: Vincent Willem van Gogh shoots himself in the chest. He was born in Zundert, Netherlands in 1853 and was a major Post-Impressionist painter of far-reaching influence. He drew as a child but did not start painting until his late twenties and still produced an oeuvre of far reaching depth and breadth, including portraits (including self portraits), landscapes, and still lifes.  He produced over 2,100 artworks including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches, and prints. He was born into a middle class family and as a young man worked for art dealers which allowed him to travel extensively. He then worked as a missionary and during that time began to sketch people. He moved to Paris and then to the south of France. His paintings became more vivid with bright, cheerful colors as he succumbed to anxiety and depression.

In December 1888, van Gogh cut off his ear and presented it to a barmaid. He was found the next morning in his room, seemingly in very ill health and was taken to the hospital. By 1889, his mental health had deteriorated to such an extent that a public petition led to his being committed in a hospital. By March, with his health improved, he was almost able to travel to his brother’s wedding but at the last moment, instead requested to be confined in an asylum. Theo van Gogh tried to persuade his brother to stay with friends, but finally relented, even paying the fees for the asylum. He was discharged in May 1890 and stayed with his brother and sister-in-law before going to Auvers-sur-Oise, a commune of artists north of Paris, to live at one of the local inns.

In Auvers, his health was not improving and his letters to his brother were filled with dread in early May. But by the end of the month, he reported that he was doing much better. His letters through June were optimistic. But by the middle of July, he was reporting illnesses again. Theo noticed the downturn in the tone of the letters and wrote letters of encouragement. On July 23, Vincent wrote about a revived interest in painting. On this day, van Gogh left after breakfast and still had not returned home by dusk. As darkness fell around 9 PM, he returned to his home holding his stomach. He was asked if he was all right, but clutching himself, he climbed the steps to his bedroom. Groans brought others to his bedside where he claimed he had tried to kill himself.

The wound was attended to but there was no surgeon available. The bullet which had missed any vital organs, remained lodged near van Gogh’s spine. The gun was never found and it is unclear even where van Gogh was when he shot himself. His brother arrived the next day as soon as he was informed of the event. While Vincent survived the initial shooting, he could not survive the infection which followed. He died at 1.30 AM on July 29 at the age of 37. There is some supposition that van Gogh did not fire the gun and it was an accidental shooting by a young boy. Modern day psychologists have tried to diagnose van Gogh and give a name to his illness and they have not reached a consensus.

I am giving my canvases my undivided attention. I am trying to do as well as certain painters whom I have greatly loved and admired. – Vincent van Gogh, July 23, 1890 letter to Theo

I tried to kill myself. – Vincent van Gogh

My body is mine and I am free to do what I want with it. Do not accuse anybody, it is I that wished to commit suicide. – Vincent van Gogh, when questioned by police about the shooting

The sadness will last forever. – Vincent van Gogh’s last words

Also on this day: What’s up Doc? – In 1940, Bugs Bunny made it to the silver screen.
Reign of Terror – In 1794, Maximilien Robespierre was arrested.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – In 1586, Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco to England.
Olympic Bomb – In 1996, a bomb went off at the Atlanta Summer Olympics.
Bank of England – In 1694, the bank was established.

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Vincent van Gogh

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 3, 2010

Vincent the Theo van Gogh's graves

March 3, 1853: Vincent van Gogh is born in Groot-Zundest, Holland. The son of a pastor, his life was a miasma of low self esteem. By the time he finally decided to become an artist, he had already failed at two romances and was unsuccessful as a clerk in a bookstore, an art salesman, and a preacher in Belgium. He stayed on in Belgium to study art.

In 1886 he went to Paris where he met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin. He adopted an Impressionist style of painting with brighter colors and smaller brushstrokes. Because of his temperament, late night gabfests with his friends, and long hours during the day painting, his health declined. Vincent and his younger brother Theo, were friends throughout their lives with the younger brother being supportive in times of need, both emotionally and financially.

He moved to Arles and was joined by Gauguin. He vacillated between madness and lucidity. Van Gogh suffered from anxiety as well as frequent episodes of mental illness. He also drank too much. He was a smoker and suffered from a smokers cough. All in all, van Gogh suffered much. The two artists eventually fought, and van Gogh drew an open razor, suffering a cut ear.

In May of 1890 he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise under the care of a doctor. The move also brought him back closer to Theo. While he had suffered from mental aberrations all his life, the episodes were coming closer together were more intense. He was often unable to paint. Two months later he committed suicide. He walked into a field and shot himself in the chest, using a revolver. He survived the initial injury and walked back to his hotel. Theo came to be with his dying brother and two days later, Vincent died in bed muttering “this sadness will last forever.” His paintings can be seen online at

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” – Edgar Degas

“What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art.” – Augustus Saint-Gaudens

“You have Van Gogh’s ear for music” – Artemus Ward

Also on this day, in 1891 the rules for soccer were debated leading to changes.

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