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Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter who is considered as one of the most important figures in Western art. He is known for his distinctive and unique style, which influenced many artists who came after him.

Van Gogh's art is characterized by the use of bold colors and brushstrokes, as well as his unique approach to perspective and composition. His work often included landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits, and he was particularly known for his depictions of flowers and nature. His signature style is marked by a vibrant use of color, often using shades that were considered unconventional at the time, such as bright yellows and blues. He used thick, impasto brushstrokes to create a lively, dynamic effect on the canvas, which gave his paintings a unique and distinctive look.

Van Gogh's art had a significant impact on the world of art, and he is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern art. His work influenced a wide range of artists, including Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso. Aside from his art, Van Gogh is also known for his troubled life, which included mental illness and financial struggles. His legacy has endured long after his death, and his paintings continue to inspire people around the world today.

Let's take a look at some his artworks, and discuss that infamous missing ear of his...

Avenue of the Poplars in Autumn


Denise K McTighe

ASAG Journal

September 14, 2020

Vincent Van Gogh lived with his parents in Nuenen from December 1883 until November 1884, where he constructed a makeshift studio in the back of the house in which to do his work. There he created some of his most remarkable paintings and sketches depicting human existence happening in daily life. After spending time catching the scenes out in the small village and surrounding countryside, he would finish bringing their essence into being in the solitude of the little room of the vicarage. In Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, 1884, (oil on canvas on panel, 99cm x 65.7cm) a lone wanderer cloaked all in black moves through the canvas, with the face folded under the heavy garments (Fig 1-4). At first view it seems a peaceful image, reflecting a departure from the cheerful blooming of summer towards the more contemplative muted, darker hues of the quiet season of the mind.  However, as one spends more time observing, subtle forebodings that parallel the reflective, golden, mood begin to creep out from the intense, heavy brushstrokes.

The sunlight casts itself in unpredictable directions-bright spots of light in contradiction with the shadows that bend and fall in crooked patterns beside the forms.  The orange glow of the treetops seem to be closing out the canopy of the bright, blue sky that hovers above-a symbol perhaps, of a joyous time now past.

The tall trees lurk in rows on either side of the road, as if silent observers, as the soul makes its way across a small bridge. The long, knotted, trunks appear animate as if in motion, as the very tips, brimming with yellow leaves brush against the blue above. In the distance there is a cottage, with only one small window with shutters, the doorway hidden from view, making one wonder what is inside the closed-up house that the character is walking away from. The painting has the ability to pull the observer into the inner workings of an artist who had his own lonely strolls through a troubled, but highly perceptive mind. However, it is also a beautiful study of light and shade.  The artist moves away from conventional form, and positions the hues in his own interpretation, abandoning how they would behave in true Autumn sunlight. Despite the simplicity of the landscape, the use of moving brushstrokes, dark colors in contrast with a lighter sky, and the visual personification of nature, heightens the complexity and meaning of the painting.  The villager, in what would seem like an ordinary day in the glow of Autumn’s foliage, becomes restless, and transcendent despite the quietude of the manner. Created with a masterful, suffering hand, Avenue of the Poplars is a gateway into a stranger, more confounding understanding of the season of change. Through the inception of this landscape, Vincent Van Gogh gave the world a compelling new way to examine, and experience reality.


Avenue of the Poplars in Autumn

The Mysterious Case of Van Gogh's Ear

The mystery of Vincent Van Gogh's amputated ear has given rise to several theories: some linked it to a psychotic break, others to his tumultuous friendship with Paul Gauguin. According to academics at the University of Hamburg, it was fellow artist Paul Gauguin, who shared a house with Van Gogh in Arles, of Southern France, who cut off Vincent’s ear during an argument over a prostitute named Rachel. An explanation that, however, was rejected both by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and by the scholar Martin Bailey.

Through an introduction from his brother Théo, Vincent met Camille Pissarro in Paris in 1886. The relationship between the two artists became very intense, where the lines between the personal and creative intertwined to influence their artistic journeys. Pissarro induced his friend to overcome his youthful way of painting, bringing him into the world of secrets of the Impressionist technique and the studies of Japanese art. After this connection, the colours of Van Gogh’s palette become light and bright with quick and irregular brush strokes, interjected with abstract imagery. Abandoning the regular social themes, he chose to reveal the hidden complexity of still life, and began to use pure color. His painting had become an expression of the mood and a means to free his emotions. Amazed by Van Gogh, Pissarro stated that "Vincent would go crazy or leave the Impressionists far behind" and after a few years added: "That he would do both, I did not foresee".

In 1988, Van Gogh moved to Arles, where he was later joined by his artist friend Gauguin. After a period of harmonious artistic coexistence united by a love of Japan and rich in stimuli, the relationship between them entered a crisis. And, after a clash with Paul Gauguin, Vincent despairing and in the grip of hallucinations cut off his ear or part of it (it is not clear). Gauguin had fled to a hotel a few hours before the incident, but returned the following morning, shortly before police arranged for Van Gogh to be taken to Saint-Paul-De-Mausole, an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. He lived there for just over a year, from May 8, 1889, to May 16, 1890.

The next day Gauguin returned to Paris and spoke quickly with fellow artist Emile Bernard to whom he said Van Gogh had "cut off clean his ear," a remark Gauguin repeated in his 1901 memoirs. But when Gauguin saw Van Gogh very briefly while recovering in bed from the injury, the wound was bandaged and congealed with blood, so it would have been difficult to determine exactly how much of the ear had been lost.  If it was the whole ear he had cut off, that suggests that Van Gogh was determined to cause maximum harm and possibly death to himself. If it was just part of the ear, it could have been an appeal for help. However, as things went, this was the first of many violent crises that plagued the artist long after his stay in the psychiatric hospital.

According to scholar Martin Bailey, Van Gogh cut off his ear because he was psychologically destroyed by the news that his brother Théo, on whom he depended economically, was about to marry. The theory would be elaborated by the expert, after a meticulous investigation into a letter written by Theo informing him of his engagement to Johanna Bonder, that Vincent inserted into the painting "Still Life: Drawing Board with Pipe, Onions and Sealing Wax".  The painting was completed in early 1889, shortly after he was injured, and the news had been sent from his brother from Paris on December 21,1888. Theorizing that the deeply shaken artist, already in a psychotic state was driven to self-harm. On July 27, 1890, after another crisis, Van Gogh deliberately wounded himself in the chest and died two days later, attended by his brother Théo.

The unpopularity of the paintings during his lifetime, and the lack of clients in the second half of the nineteenth century, is illustrated by the commercial failure of Van Gogh who in his short, artistic career managed to sell only one painting. Today, widely recognized in the modern world as one of the greatest artists to have ever lived, he left behind over eight hundred paintings and more than a thousand drawings that continue to be deeply embedded in our visual culture.

The mystery of the infamous amputation of his ear, continues to be a topic of conversation and debate among the artisitc and academic realms ,that also symbolizes the turbulent life and journey that he, and many other artists take on the uncertain road to creation.


Vincent Van Gogh's Mutilated Ear

Other Van Gogh works


"The Blute-Fin Mill", 1886  by Vincent van Gogh

Painting on display in the Fundatie museum in Zwolle

Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


"Bois de Boulogne with People Walking", 1886 by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


"Flowering Garden with Path", 1888 by Vincent van Gogh


"A Lane near Arles (Side of a Country Lane)" (1888)  by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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