How the artist continues to intrigue us

The National Galleries of Scotland “were delighted” after discovering a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh hidden behind another painting. The artist captured the public’s attention for over 100 years, his life and death being shrouded in mystery.

It’s been about 122 years since Vincent Van Gogh died and we can’t stop talking about him.

Recently, the National Galleries of Scotland announced that they discovered a previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, with his ear intact, hidden behind another painting.

The portrait was found on the back of the canvas of the Dutch Post-Impressionist’s 1885 work “Peasant’s Head,” covered with layers of glue and cardboard.

The self-portrait, revealed during an X-ray, shows a bearded babysitter in a brimmed hat with a scarf tied loosely around her neck. It was completed before Van Gogh cut off his left ear in 1888.

Lesley Stevenson, senior conservator of paintings at the National Galleries, said they were “delighted” with the find.

“When we first saw the x-ray, of course, we were extremely excited,” she said, adding “This is an important discovery as it adds to what we already know about Van’s life. Gogh”.

The painting adds to the intrigue surrounding the life of Van Gogh, who is today considered one of the greatest artists of all time.

cut off his ear

It is a well-known fact that Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear in December 1888 while living in Arles in Provence, France.

However, the artist’s ear has been an object of fascination for years, leading historians to offer all sorts of different theories as to why the 19th-century Dutch artist cut off a piece of his own hearing organ.

In fact, his self-harm also served as inspiration for his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

The most widely accepted account is that Van Gogh cut off his earlobe in a fit of mania after an argument with fellow artist Paul Gauguin, then gave it to a prostitute named Rachel as a sign of love. ‘affection.

However, another account put forward by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans in their 2009 book, pact of silence, supposes that Gauguin disfigured his friend with a sword. Basing their theory on passages from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo, they suggest that the two artists agreed never to bring up the subject again.

There is also another claim, made by Martin Bailey – a British Van Gogh scholar – who mentions that the artist sliced ​​off his whole ear with a razor blade after hearing the news that his brother Theo was engaged. .

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting titled “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. The painting, which shows the artist after cutting off his ear, is shrouded in mystery. We always wonder why Van Gogh cut off his organ. AFP

The Mystery of the Starry Night

After experiencing a nervous breakdown in the winter of 1888, Van Gogh, who is believed to have suffered from acute depression, checked himself into the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

It was here that he painted what is today described as a timeless, billion-dollar masterpiece – The Starry Night.

While in the asylum, where he got two rooms – one was his bedroom, the other a painting studio, he created 142 paintings.

The painting with its seductive swirls, intoxicating composition and enchanting color palette is believed to be her view from her asylum bedroom window.

However, some believe the painting was about mortality. The dark spiers in the foreground are cypresses, plants most often associated with graveyards and death. This link gives special meaning to this quote from van Gogh: “Looking at the stars always makes me dream. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the bright spots in the sky be as accessible as the black spots on the map of France? Just as one takes the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, one takes death to reach a star.

Van Gogh's self-portrait hidden behind painting discovered after 100 years How the artist continues to intrigue us

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh” at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. AFP

The Death of Van Gogh

Just like his life, his death too is shrouded in mystery.

The story goes that on July 29, 1890, after spending nearly a year in the asylum, Van Gogh returned to the inn where he was living, after dark, probably around 9 p.m., holding his belly.

When he showed up, the family that owned the inn became concerned about his condition and asked if everything was okay.

Van Gogh began to reply with difficulty, “No, but I…” as he walked up the stairs to his bedroom. When the owner asked him if he was sick, van Gogh showed him a wound near his heart, explaining: “I tried to kill myself”.

During the night, Van Gogh admitted that he had left for the wheat field where he had recently painted. In the afternoon, he had shot himself with a revolver and passed out. Revived by the evening coolness, he had tried in vain to find the revolver to complete the deed. He then returned to the inn. After two days he died.

However, in 2011, two American writers, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, debunked this version of events, writing that Van Gogh was shot in the abdomen on July 27, 1890 by 16-year-old René Secrétan, a visitor to been to Auvers-sur-Oise who mocked the artist. In their version, he managed to stagger back to his inn, dying two days later from his injuries.

The authors reason that Vincent had befriended a local boy, Gaston Secrétan, who wanted to be a painter. It is said that friendship was a tonic to Van Gogh’s troubles, and for this the artist was happy to endure the endless pranks and teasing of Gaston’s younger brother, René.

The authors of their book said René Secrétan and other local guys made fun of Van Gogh for his looks and one day the boy mistakenly shot him while dressed as a cowboy.

This version of events, however, was not accepted by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Leo Jansen, then curator of the Van Gogh museum, told the Associated Press“We cannot yet agree with their conclusions as we believe there is not enough evidence yet.”

Whether his death was self-induced or by murder, there is no arguing about Vincent Van Gogh’s success.

Today, his works fetch millions at auction and there’s even a traveling interactive exhibit called Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience where people pay to sit amidst animated reproductions of his work. You can buy all kinds of trinkets – T-shirts, posters, mouse pads, etc. – with his face or paintings emblazoned on it. Everyone is instantly familiar with paintings like Starry Night, whether they are particularly interested in the art or not.

With contributions from agencies

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About Catharine C. Bean

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