Vincent van Gogh, Descent into Madness. 1888-1889.
Posted On January 13, 2023
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Vincent van Gogh, At Saint-Paul-de-Mausole
Vincent van Gogh suffered a lot of loneliness, and the lack of human connection was often mentioned in his letters to Theo. Vincent was released on 7 January from the hospital and returned to the Yellow House. Joseph Etienne Roulin (1841-1903), a postal worker, and his wife cleaned and organized the house for him. . When Joseph was transferred to Marseille; Vincent felt abandoned again. Around 4 February 1889, Van Gogh suffered a second mental breakdown. Rev. Frédéric Salles informed Theo on 7 February that Vincent had been readmitted to the hospital, confined in a padded cell. Doctors advised him to be admitted to an asylum.
Salles, a Clergyman of Arles, wrote: “For three days, he has thought he is being poisoned and sees poisoners and victims of poison everywhere. The cleaning woman, who is showing considerable devotion in caring for him, faced with his more than abnormal condition, felt it her duty to tell others, and neighbors brought it to the attention of the police … Today, according to the cleaning woman, he has refused all food; he hardly spoke yesterday and this morning and sometimes his behavior frightened this poor woman who told me that she wouldn’t be able to go on looking after him in this state.“
Doctor Albert Delon examined Van Gogh. He wrote the following in his report: “I found this man in a state of extreme excitement, suffering from a true delirium, pronouncing incoherent words, only momentarily recognizing the people around him. He is particularly subject to auditory hallucinations (he hears voices uttering reproaches against him) and to an idée fixe, according to which he is supposed to have been the victim of an attempted poisoning. This patient’s condition appears very serious and requires close surveillance and treatment in a particular asylum.“
The courtyard of the hospital in ArlesHospital_in_Saint-RemyStarry Night Over the Rhone 1889Starry night full 1988
Thirty of his neighbors signed a petition, and urgently requested the mayor, Jacques Tardieu, to have Van Gogh committed; Joseph d’Ornano, chief of police of the city of Arles, drew up a report on 27 February 1889 containing the neighbor’s statements. They reproached Van Gogh for over-indulging in drink, after which he was in a state of over-excitement such that he no longer knew what he was doing or saying. Van Gogh stayed in the hospital until he departed for Saint-Rémy.
Letter of Vincent to Theo 21 April 1889; “At the end of the month, I’d still wish to go to the mental hospital at St-Rémy or another institution, which Mr. Salles has told me about. Forgive me for not going into detail to weigh the pros and cons of such a course of action. It would strain my mind a great deal to talk about it. It will, I hope, suffice to say that I feel decidedly incapable of starting to retake a new studio and living there alone, here in Arles or elsewhere – it comes down to the same thing… Now you will understand that if alcohol was undoubtedly one of the significant causes of my madness, it came very slowly and would go away too, should it go, of course. Or if it comes from smoking, the same thing happens…
Letter of Vincent to Theo 30 April 1889; “You can be reasonably sure that the Marseille artist who committed suicide ( we do not know who the artist is) did not at all commit suicide from drinking absinthe, for the simple reason that nobody would have offered him any and that he wouldn’t have had the means to buy any. Besides, it won’t have been solely for his pleasure that he drank, but because being ill already, he kept himself going that way.– Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 30 April 1889.”
Marguaret Gachet at the PianoMarguerite_Gachet_in_the_GardenDr. Gachet’s GardenDr. Gachet
The vicar’s Salle recommended the Asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy de Provence. Olive trees and fields surrounded it. It was a 12 century Augustin monastery that was reconverted; Vincent voluntarily checked himself and stayed there for a year. His brother had arranged two rooms side by side, one as a studio and the other as his bedroom. His diagnosis was from nerves to alcoholism to syphilis or exhaustion breakdown. Van Gogh and Salles left Arles on Wednesday, 8 May 1889, for the Asylum.
On Wednesday, 8 May 1889, Vincent and Frederic Salle made their way to the Asylum. Vincent was convinced that the people attempted to poison him; he was indeed considered a lunatic, and the children bullied him whenever they came across the weird flemish artist.
During his confinement, he painted around fifty paintings but signed only seven; the Iris, the roses, and others still live he painted of the Asylum’s garden. He painted; The reaper from his window with a faint smile, which he saw as representing death. In November, Vincent’s art was accepted to be exhibited at the Solon des Refuses along with Renoir, Cezanne, and Toulouse. He sent six paintings, including the Iris and the starry night. On 31 January 1890, Vincent became godfather to Vincent Willem, Theo, and Jo’s baby boy. Another good news was that Theo sold the Red Vineyards for 400 francs; He hoped this good news would bring his brother the encouragement he needed.
Sunflowers in a VasSunflowers in a VasScabious and Asters and Marigolds
Theo received Vincent’s latest work from the Asylum. Theo writes, “your latest paintings had given me a great deal to think about as regards your state of mind when you made them. All of them have a power of color that you hadn’t attained before, which is a rare quality, but you have gone further. Suppose some people occupy themselves seeking the symbol by torturing the form. In that case, I find it in many of your canvases through the expression of the summary of your thoughts on nature and living beings, which you feel are so strongly attached to it.”
Vincent had been a patient at the Asylum for about a year; he felt it was time for a change; he was writing back and forth with Theo about his wish to return to Arles. Theo convinced him to come back up North to be closer to him; finally, he suggested Auvers, a doctor, a friend of the impressionist, and the amateur artist himself, could be a perfect option.
Letter of Theo van Gogh to Vincent 4 October 1889. “I’ve seen Pissarro and talked to him about the matter. He doesn’t have much to say at home, where his wife wears trousers. After a few days, he told me that it wasn’t possible at his home, but that he knows someone in Auvers who’s a doctor and does painting in his free moments. He tells me that he’s a man who has been in touch with all the Impressionists. He thinks that you could probably stay at his home. He’ll go and see him and speak to him about the matter.
By May 1890, Vincent was getting ready to move out of the Asylum; before going to Auver Sur Oise to Dr. Gachet, he planned to stop in Paris with his brother to see little Vincent and his artist friends. Theo looked forward to seeing his brother, but we can read in his letters how concerned he was about his brother’s journey. Auvers every summer had a flow of artists invading the community. These artists were primarily American.
Ravoux InnNotre Dame de l Assomption Auvers sur OiseMaison du docteur Paul Gachet
Letter of Theo to Vincent 3 May 1890. “If I were you, I’d act entirely by Mr. Peyron’s view, and in any event, on the day you’ve decided to come here, you must be accompanied during the entire journey by someone you trust. The fatigue of the trip and the sensation of rediscovering places you have known may influence your illness. If possible, I’d so much like to have you with us, at least for a while,
Vincent made the trip to Paris to spend time with his brother; we do not have too much detail of his time in Paris as the letters had stopped. But we know that he gave the Almond Blossom painting to his nephew, as his life was beginning like the blossoms on the tree. After several days, Theo and Vincent are on their way to Auver- sure-Oise, a town 20 miles north of Paris to Dr. Gachet.
Letter of Vincent to Theo Sunday, 25 May 1890. “How I would like you, Jo, and the little one to rest in the country instead of the traditional journey to Holland. Yes, I’m well aware that Mother will want to see the little one, and it’s certainly a reason to go there. However, she would certainly understand if it were really in the little one’s best interests.“
Sunday 8, 1890, was a beautiful day, Theo, Jo, and Little Vincent took the early train to Auvers to spend the day with Vincent and Dr. Gache, Letter of Vincent to his mother Friday, 13 June 1890; “Theo, his wife, and his child were here on Sunday, and we lunched at Dr. Gachet’s. Then my little namesake had his first encounter with the animal kingdom since there are eight cats and three dogs, hens, rabbits, ducks, pigeons &c. in great numbers around the place. But I don’t think he understands much of it for the present.
Jo van Gogh-Bonger, Anna van Gogh-Carbentus, and Vincent Willem van GoghJohanna_Bonger van Gogh with baby VincentJohanna_Bonger van Gogh with little VincentJohanna_Bonger van Gogh
To Anna van Gogh-Carbentus and Willemien van Gogh. Auvers-Sur-Oise, 10 and 14 July 1890. I sincerely hope you’ll have pleasant days with Theo and Jo and, like me, you’ll see how well they look after the baby, who looks well.
Theo has been sick on and off for years; he rarely mentions his condition for fear of worrying Vincent, but for a while now, he has had constant coughing, he gets feverish, and his long hours at work don’t help his symptoms. Since the death of his father and the instability of Vincent, Theo had to take the burden of his mother, brother, and baby, Theo, in a letter sent to Vincent that after so many years of working, he feels unappreciated. At the end of July, Little Vincent became very ill; Theo and Jo were very anxious, he recovered, but the experience exhausted them.
Letter of Theo to Vincent 30 June 1890; “The baby was very sick, but he has recovered…We don’t know what we ought to do; there are questions. Ought we take another apartment, you know, in the same house on the first floor? Ought we to go to Auvers, to Holland or not? Ought I to live without worrying about tomorrow, and when I work all day and still don’t manage to spare this good Jo from money worries, since those rats Boussod & Valadon treat me as if I’d just started working for them and keep me on a leash. When I’m not calculating, without spending on extras and am short of money, must I tell them how things are, and if they dare refuse, finally tell them, Sirs, I’m taking the plunge, and I’m going to set myself up as a dealer on my account? I think that as I write to you, I’m reaching this conclusion that it’s my duty and that if Ma or Jo or you or I tighten our belts a little, it won’t get us anywhere and that, on the contrary, you and I by moving in the world not as poor down-and-outs who don’t eat, but on the contrary keeping up our courage and all living buoyed up by our mutual love, we’ll go much further. We’ll accomplish our duty and task with much more serenity than by weighing each mouthful of bread.“
At Auvers, Vincent rented a room in the Ravoux Tavern Place d.l. mairie. Dr. Gachet was an unconventional medicine practitioner; his philosophy was lots of rest and fresh air. In late May, Vincent received a visit from Theo and his Family; they stayed until June. On 27 July 1890, like every day, Vincent went out on his regular daily trek, holding his art supply in his dirty cloth and straw hat. Later, when he returned to his room holding his chest. Mr. Ravoux went to check on him when he did not come for dinner.
Ravoux InnVincent van Gogh Room at the Ravoux Inn
Vincent had visited Theo and Jo in Paris in the first days of July. The child’s severe indisposition wore them out – Theo had again conceived the plan to leave Goupil to start a business of his own. Vincent’s art was gaining momentum while in Paris, and he received a lot of visits. Jo, weary from the baby, was being impatient with Vincent.
Overfatigue and overwrought, he left hastily left Paris. Once back here, he set back to work; he writes, ” the brush however almost falling from my hands and – knowing clearly what I wanted I’ve painted another three large canvases since then. They’re immense stretches of wheatfields under turbulent skies, and I tried to express sadness and extreme loneliness. And from his last paintings, in which one feels imminent disaster, coming closer like the blackbirds that race across the field in the storm.”
Wheatfield in thunderstorm Vincent van Gogh
Wheatfield with Crows Vincent van Gogh Auvers
Letter of Theo to Vincent 22 July 1890; “but I can’t believe it that you consider it an intense domestic quarrel that Jo asked you not to put the Prévostin the place where you wanted to hang it? She hadn’t thought to hurt you with that and certainly would have preferred you to leave it there than to get angry about it.“
Vincent did take Jo’s impatience and Theo’s financial concern to heart. He feels that the time to create an artist’s colony has passed, and even though he hoped it was not, he seems depressed in his letter after returning to Paris.
Vincent van Gogh attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heath. He missed his hearth. He returns to Ravoux Inn. Theo arrived the next day, and Vincent passed away at 1:30 am.
Vincent van Gogh, Grave Site, Auvers sur Oise.
Article of Vincent van Gogh Suicide article “Le Regional”
It is my conclusion, after reading the correspondence, that there Vincent did commit suicide. The recollection of Ravoux, who are the first ones who spoke to him, were first-hand witnesses of the event following his attempted suicide. Vincent’s predisposition to deep depression, anxiety, and the feeling of desperation after his last visit to his brother. He created the perfect troubling sentiment.
Born in Turkey, Sibel Meydan Johnson lived and studied in Mons Belgium most of her life. She graduated with honors with a major in Liberal Arts.
In 1990 Sibel left her hometown for New York City. She worked for several years as a production assistant for " En Plein Air Masters" one of the first online plein air artists mentor programs then as director of production for Brush With Life TV’s series on visual art.
Today Sibel is an autodidact painter, Freelance writer specializing in art and the business of art. Mother and wife, she is a full-time artist.
Sibel's art captures and brings forth the hidden emotion of his subjects and evoke a sense of curiosity and introspection pushing the boundaries of creativity and expression, her work often combines elements of abstraction and realism, creating a unique and captivating visual experience that sometimes disturb the viewers.