Van Gogh's Fatal ConditionOf all the painters who ever lived, perhaps more has been written about Vincent van Gogh than any other. As a result of his voluminous letters to his brother Theo, there is little about this man's life that is not known. His work, completely unsalable during his lifetime, now brings millions at auction. The legendary mutilation of his ear is known even to elementary school children. His lunacy and inept suicide in 1890 is one of the greatest tragedies to ever befall the art world.
Van Gogh was a spirit starved for love. He had a love to give to God and church, to his family, to a woman, yet none seemed able to receive it. None, except for the stark whiteness of his canvases where his crazed and unrequited emotions exploded into the light in frenzied brushwork and volcanic eruptions of colour. Scientists now suspect that van Gogh was afflicted by a chemical imbalance in his brain that has since been known to trigger uncontrollable surges in creative endeavours. Similar instances have been seen amongst poets and other writers, as well as painters. Though rare, it is treatable today. In van Gogh's case, it was fatal.
Camille Pissarro once said of him, "I thought when I first met van Gogh, that he would either go mad, or surpass us all. Little did I know he would do both".
Contributed by Lane, Jim
31 October 1997