Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats



"I Think Gauguin Is Sick of Me"

How Vincent van Gogh lost part of his ear



There is a lot of strife to strive against There is a lot of suffering to suffer And many prayers to pray -But at the end of it all is peace.

Vincent van Gogh, from a sermon in Isleworth, October 1878


Paul Gauguin, Les Miserables, 1888, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam

Van Gogh left school without finishing, quit an apprenticeship and was a disaster as an itinerant preacher. He then became a painter and — as it seemed to most of those who knew him — was as unsuccessful at this as he had been at everything else, depending on his brother Theo who was an art dealer for money and becoming an out-of-control alcoholic, who spent his evenings in whorehouses. One episode of apparent madness led to his commitment. When he was discharged he shot himself: he died at the age of thirty-seven, a passionate and dreamy man.

Other painters admired him. Claude Monet thought Van Gogh's pictures were the best at the March 1890 "Salon des Independants", and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec challenged an acquaintance to a duel for mocking Van Gogh's work. Yet Van Gogh was never able to make a living as a painter. The only picture he is known to have sold during his lifetime was Red Vineyard at Aries.

One episode has come to symbolise Van Gogh's life lived between hallucination and creative frenzy. In 1888 he moved from Paris to Aries in Provence, attracted by the southern light and the intense colours. There he shared a little yellow house with Paul Gauguin, who was already a successful painter. But Gauguin soon found that he liked neither Aries nor Van Gogh. On December 23 they quarrelled worse than ever: Gauguin felt threatened and left to spend the night at an inn. When he returned the following morning, there was a throng of spectators in front of the house, which was spattered with blood. Gauguin was arrested. It turned out that Van Gogh had returned at night alone and had cut off his own ear lobe with a razor. Then he had gone to a brothel, where he had presented the ear lobe, wrapped in newspaper, to a prostitute named Rachel: "Truly I say unto you, you will think of me." Emile Bernard, a staunch supporter of Van Gogh, admitted publicly that his friend was mad.

Van Gogh was sent to an asylum, where he painted Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear which reveals the state he was in. He, who had always said he wanted to bring the sun to suffering people by painting in brilliant colours, appears as a shadow of what he had once been. When Van Gogh was young, Camille Pissarro had said: "This man will either go mad or he'll leave all the rest of us far behind." Rather than "either-or", he should have said "bothand".


Vincent Van Gogh
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear


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