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VincentVan Gogh

 

The death of Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch post-Impressionist painter, occurred in the early morning of 29 July 1890, in his room at the Auberge Ravoux in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise in northern France. Van Gogh was shot in the stomach, either by himself or by others, and died two days later.
In 1889, Vincent van Gogh experienced a deterioration in his mental health. As a result of incidents in Arles leading to a public petition, he was admitted to a hospital. His condition improved and he was ready to be discharged by March 1889, coinciding with the wedding of his brother Theo to Johanna Bonger. However at the last moment his resolution failed him and he confided to Frédéric Salles, who served as an unofficial chaplain to the hospital's Protestant patients, that he wanted to be confined to an asylum. At Salles' suggestion van Gogh chose an asylum in nearby Saint-Rémy. Theo originally resisted this choice, even suggesting that Vincent rejoin Paul Gauguin in Pont Aven, but was eventually won over, agreeing to pay the asylum fees (requesting the cheapest third-class accommodation). Vincent entered the asylum in early May 1889. His mental condition remained stable for a while and he was able to work en plein air, producing many of his most iconic paintings, such as Starry Night, at this time. However at the end of July, following a trip to Arles, he suffered a serious relapse that lasted a month. He made a good recovery, only to suffer another relapse in late December 1889, and early the following January an acute relapse while delivering a portrait of Madame Ginoux to her in Arles. This last relapse, described by Jan Hulsker as his longest and saddest, lasted until March 1890. In May 1890 Vincent was discharged from the asylum (the last painting he produced at the asylum was At Eternity's Gate, an image of desolation and despair), and after spending a few days with Theo and Jo in Paris, Vincent went to live in Auvers-sur-Oise, a commune north of Paris popular with artists.
Shortly before leaving Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh told how he was suffering from his stay in the hospital: "The surroundings here are beginning to weigh me down more than I can say... I need some air, I feel overwhelmed by boredom and grief."
On arriving at Auvers, van Gogh's health was still not very good. Writing on 21 May to Theo he comments: "I can do nothing about my illness. I am suffering a little just now — the thing is that after that long seclusion the days seem like weeks to me." But by 25 May, the artist was able to report to his parents that his health had improved and that the symptoms of his disease had disappeared. His letters to his sister Wilhelmina on 5 June and to Theo and his wife Jo on about 10 June indicate a continued improvement, his nightmares almost having disappeared.
On about 12 June, he wrote to his friends Mr and Mrs Ginoux in Arles, telling them how his health had suffered at Saint-Rémy but had since improved: "But latterly I had contracted the other patients' disease to such an extent that I could not be cured of my own. The other patients' society had a bad influence on me, and in the end I was absolutely unable to understand it. Then I felt I had better try a change, and for that matter, the pleasure of seeing my brother, his family and my painter friends again has done me a lot of good, and I am feeling completely calm and normal."
Furthermore, an unsent letter to Paul Gauguin which van Gogh wrote around 17 June is quite positive about his plans for the future. After describing his recent colourful wheat studies, he explains: "I would like to paint some portraits against a very vivid yet tranquil background. There are the greens of a different quality, but of the same value, so as to form a whole of green tones, which by its vibration will make you think of the gentle rustle of the ears swaying in the breeze: it is not at all easy as a colour scheme." On 2 July, writing to his brother, van Gogh comments: "I myself am also trying to do as well as I can, but I will not conceal from you that I hardly dare count on always being in good health. And if my disease returns, you would forgive me. I still love art and life very much..."
The first sign of new problems was revealed in a letter van Gogh wrote to Theo on 10 July. He first states, "I am very well, I am working hard, have painted four studies and two drawings," but then goes on to say, "I think that we must not count on Dr Gachet at all. First of all, he is sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much, so that's that... I don't know what to say. Certainly my last attack, which was terrible, was in a large measure due to the influence of the other patients." Later in the letter he adds, "For myself, I can only say at the moment that I think we all need rest — I feel exhausted (in French Je me sens - raté)." In an even more despairing tone he adds: "And the prospect grows darker, I see no happy future at all."

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