Today is July the 29th.
My father who passed last year in August was born on this day in 1941. This is his first missed birthday, and it has me pensive.
Vincent van Gogh died on this date in 1890. He had shot himself in the chest in a wheat field two days before, and he managed to make it home to his own bed. When he was found, he allegedly said, “I shot myself … I only hope I haven’t botched it.”
Clearly he had.
All he would tell police was, “What I have done is nobody else’s business. I am free to do what I like with my own body.” I couldn’t agree more, despite the ill advised choice. The doctor atypically decided not to remove the bullet, and his brother Theo was sent for. Theo rushed from Paris to his brother’s bedside and reported Vincent’s last words were “The sadness will go on forever.”
I grok you Vincent.
Van Gogh’s friend and fellow painter Emile Bernard wrote about the funeral:
“The sun was terribly hot outside. We climbed the hill outside Auvers talking about him, about the daring impulse he had given to art, of the great projects he was always thinking about, and about the good he had done to all of us. We reached the cemetery, a small new cemetery strewn with new tombstones. It is on the little hill above the fields that were ripe for harvest under the wide blue sky that he would still have loved … perhaps.
Then he was lowered into the grave. … Anyone would have started crying at that moment … the day was too much made for him for one not to imagine that he was still alive and enjoying it …”
“Experts” have argued over the exact nature of Vincent’s mental illness for nearly a century, variously blaming schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, paint poisoning, and syphilis.
His condition, whatever it was, was probably made worse by insomnia, overwork, malnutrition, and drink. I know mine is. He was virtually unknown at the time of his death, and is now one of the most recognized artists of any period. That’s why that damned Doctor Who episode HURTS SO MUCH!!! Even today.
This may be why Vincent’s art is so bound up with the public perception of him as a struggling, tormented, even tragic artist that it’s nearly impossible for most people to separate his work from his myth. I feel the work exists to spite the life. Screw you life! In death I am loved forever.
Or at least through the 21st century, which can always find the roots of what is considered truly important to be buried deep into the fertile soil of the 19th.