On this day in 1888, which is 130 years ago, Vincent Van Gogh cut of a piece of his right ear in a bout of anguish brought on by his fight with Paul Gauguin, who was leaving Arles and their shared yellow house. Earlier in the evening Gauguin had threatened Vincent with a saber, and there’s some conjecture that Paul had nicked Vincent’s ear, and Vincent merely covered up for him. Van Gogh hadn’t been in a very stable mental condition for a long time, and was prone to passionate outbursts. He was undoubtedly too intense a personality for Gauguin to be in close proximity with, and vice versa, but Vincent, who had virtually no recognition for his art in his lifetime, cherished the opportunity of working together with another artist and forging a new revolution in painting. When all this fell apart, it was too much for him.
The painting above is not by Vincent, but is my tribute to him, in a style approximating his own, but done using my own digital impasto painting technique. Of course he didn’t manage to knock off a self-portrait while his eat was freshly cut and still bleeding, but I wondered what it would look like if he did do such a painting, and at perhaps his lowest moment.
Nobody can really paint like Vincent, and I’ve never seen a fake that I couldn’t see through, and thousands upon thousands of people have tried. I even think some of the paintings that are generally accepted as real are fakes. Mine, of course, is no exception.
I like to think it’s not a bad tribute, though, and shows how someone might continue his enduring artistic legacy into the new millennium, even while using a computer to do so.
Here is a real painting by the artist with a bandaged ear.
And here’s another:
Van Gogh is probably most famous for cutting off his ear, and maybe without that legend surrounding him, and his episodes of madness, he wouldn’t be so popular today. But his art itself is far more interesting than relevant than his self-mutilation of 130 years ago, even if I made a tribute to thew incident. Vincent is an artist that I never tire of, who just grows more on me, and who continues to take my breath away. Even if he is famous for the wrong reason, or partly so, he deserves to be a famous artist with paintings in art museums. Some say he’s overrated, but I’d argue overrated for the wrong reasons, and underrated for the right ones.
For a more extended analysis of why Vincent is great, see my article about my tribute painting, which goes well into why I admire him, with lots of pics.
Is Vincent someone to think about at this time of year. For me, despite the madness and the tragedy, he is, because besides all that he’s a very honest, humble, and good painter, and to the degree that he’s flipping amazing.