IMAGINARY ARTISTS II: VAN GOGH

CAREER SUICIDE

“As far as I can judge, I am not actually mentally ill.” Vincent Van Gogh, shortly after cutting off part of his ear and giving it to a prostitute.

Poor old Vinnie has been pathologised in a hundred different ways: epilepsy, chemical poisoning, bipolar disorder, alcoholism. Clearly there was something seriously wrong with the paint-eating, ear-slashing, self-medicating and ultimately suicidal painter who sold almost nothing and was known to almost nobody during his lifetime. But in that last fact, it seems to me, lies a large and relatively simple part of the answer. As somebody who’s spent their whole adult life battling to become and remain a worthwhile artist and writer, and to much more success while I’m alive than Vincent ever had (albeit still not very much, and only really by default because he had no success or recognition at all), I can wholly sympathise with and understand his sadness…

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