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Vincent van Gogh led an interesting, mostly unstable, and sometimes troubled life; this is often reflected in his work, and has led to thousands of pages being written about him and his art.

However, the best glimpse into Vincent’s state of mind is through his own words, in the hundreds of letters he wrote to his brother, Theo, and other family members. He mentions the drawing of this image, which the painting is based on, in an 1881 letter: “Today and yesterday I drew two figures of an old man with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. I did it of [Cornelis] Schuitemaker once and always kept the drawing, because I wanted to do it better another time. Perhaps I’ll also do a lithograph of it. [He did.] What a fine sight an old working man makes, in his patched bombazine suit with his bald head.”

Vincent painted Sorrowing Old Man almost nine years later, in 1890, while he was a patient at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole mental hospital in Saint-Rémy. The hospital seemed to help Vincent maintain a calm demeanor, although there was not much actual treatment given, mostly baths and an orderly meal routine. He wrote many letters from the hospital and completed about 150 paintings while there; he painted the hospital grounds, people, landscapes, even an interior view of the hospital, Corridor in the Asylum.

This painting was finished just a few months before his death, which has long been thought to have been caused by a self-inflicted gunshot, but newer theories point to a homicide, whether by accident or intent. Of course, there was the incident at the hospital where Vincent was thought to have been drinking turpentine and/or paint in a possible suicide attempt, but luckily that didn’t take. Vincent is also known for his other act of self-harm: he cut off part of, or his whole ear, a couple of years earlier during a bout of anger and despair after an argument with Paul Gauguin while in Arles at the Yellow House.

It’s doubtful that Vincent ever saw himself as the sad old man of his future, but unfortunately, it seems he saw himself this way as a young man at various times in his life.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about At Eternity's Gate

Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate) is an oil painting by Vincent van Gogh that he made in 1890 in Saint-Rémy de Provence based on an early lithograph. The painting was completed in early May at a time when he was convalescing from a severe relapse in his health some two months before his death, which is generally accepted as a suicide.

In the 1970 catalogue raisonné, it is given the title Worn Out: At Eternity's Gate.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about At Eternity's Gate

Comments (5)

Gracia

The texture Van Gogh created here is fascinating to me. I like how he implemented variations of color and line to make the texture of the man's wrinkling skin and wood floor especially. I like this painting because this texture draws my eye through the work.

FlyingRooster

Wow. This is a dang hard and honest piece.

Rick

If you love Van Gogh more than anyone else in the universe do you get to have a Van Gogh?

thinkstuff101

Van Gogh: 'What a fine sight an old working man makes'
Me: Glad someone appreciates my withered form.

pogo agogo

The animation of this painting in "Loving Vincent" is so touching, I can't even imagine what van Gogh was going through at the time.