Van Gogh and Gauguin: Electric Arguments and Utopian Dreams

By Bradley Collins | Go to book overview

6
Aftermath

I

Despite Vincent's considerable introspective powers and his acute self-awareness, he never fully confronted either the possible meanings or the seriousness of his ear cutting. He appears to have been completely amnesiac about his thoughts and actions immediately before, during, and after his self-mutilation but this does not explain his inability to come to terms with the drastic nature of what occurred. He could not help knowing how severely he had sliced his ear, and much of what happened on the night of December 23, including many of the lurid details, would have been related to him by Theo, Joseph Roulin, Reverend Salles, and his physician, Dr. Rey. Instead of wondering how he could have acted in such a sensationally aberrant manner—inflicting a nearly fatal injury on himself, presenting a severed ear as a gift to a prostitute, returning to the Yellow House to sleep in his own blood—Vincent did everything possible to minimize his mental collapse. In his letters to Theo he characterizes his breakdown in remarkably euphemistic terms as merely a "trifle" and "simply an artist's fit." 1 And he became particularly exercised at the fact that Theo had to make the trip to Arles since "after all no harm came to me, and there was no reason why you should be upset." 2 The closest he could come to acknowledging the disturbing reality of his seizure was to speak of it in a speculative mode. "Suppose that I was as wild as anything," he muses at one point and, at another, allows that he was "after all probably the primary cause of it all" (italics mine). 3

-193-

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Van Gogh and Gauguin: Electric Arguments and Utopian Dreams
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Van Gogh 1
  • 2 - Gauguin 39
  • 3 - Van Gogh in Paris and First Encounters with Gauguin 65
  • 4 - Jean Valjean and the Buddhist Monk 85
  • 5 - Electric Arguments 129
  • 6 - Aftermath 193
  • Chronology 233
  • Notes 237
  • Selected Bibliography 253
  • Index 257
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