History of Art / Art & Design Styles
A Critical Biography of Vincent van Gogh
No one heard the shot. No one ever found the gun. It was Sunday, July 27, 1890. Vincent had recently finished Wheatfield with Crows, thought to be his final painting, one that he described as representing “vast fields of wheat beneath troubled skies,” one where he said in a letter he meant to send to Theo “I did not need to go out of my way to try to express cheerlessness and extreme loneliness.” The letter never got sent, but was found stuffed in his smock. That morning, as usual, he walked out into the wheat fields with his easel, brushes, tubes of color and folding stool, perhaps hoping to reach his destination before the gang of local boys and girls were up and able to tease him and throw tomatoes. Le Crau, a wide plain of ripe grain, fields of citron, yellow, tan, and ochre, spread out beneath the bright Provencal sun. It’s safe to assume he heard the cicadas singing loudly, the swiping swishes of the farmers’ scythes already cutting through the rich wheat stalks, the gusts of wind whispering through the olive branches. Driven and filled with energy for months, he had been quickly, with an assurance that overcame and perhaps even came from his doubts and struggles, putting his own dramatic visions on canvas after canvas. But today he did not go into the fields to paint, or, perhaps, in the beginning he did, perhaps in the morning that was his intention. No one will ever know. He said he brought the revolver to frighten off the crows. Possibly that was his original intention when he included it with his lunch of bread and milk. In the end it‘s probably not relevant, except for the endless attempts to analyze him, to dig into his complex psyche, at once brilliant and yet impelled to self-destruction. The Ravoux family were sitting on the terrace of their café when he returned, a bit concerned because he was late, but not overly so. When he finally appeared, his walk was more uneven than usual, and he held his hand over his stomach. “Monsieur Vincent,” Mrs. Ravoux said, “we were worried, we are glad to see you come. Has anything bad happened?” “No, but I . . .” he left his reply unfinished as he passed inside. Mr. Ravoux followed him upstairs, where he found him sitting on his bed, facing the wall. “I wanted to kill myself.” This book is a critical examination of Vincent van Gogh that offers insights into his life, his religious beliefs, his relationships with women, and, of course, his paintings. It includes discussions of his letters, and responds to many of the previous works about him, dispelling some of the myths that have no foundation and pointing out how many of the claims made about him and many of the popular beliefs that have grown up around him are at best guesswork. It explores psychological, neurological, theological, philosophical, aesthetic, and historical paradigms for comprehending his enigmatic and enticing personality.