Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear
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Arty Fact

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Vincent van Gogh is the epitome of the tortured artist, and it's the story of the infamous ear maiming that snagged him the title.

Van Gogh had a dream. He envisioned starting an artist commune where the greatest minds would mingle, paint and be merry. Van Gogh knew he needed another well-respected artist by his side to make his dream a reality and he saw in Paul Gauguin the necessary qualities.

In a somewhat touching, somewhat creepy attempt to reel Gauguin into his life, he painted Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin. Perhaps it was his longing eyes or his luminous bald head, but something about it moved his fellow painter. The selfie lured Gauguin to visit our strange Vincent, and they ended up living together for the next few months. It was a bromance for the first. Until Gauguin began to realize his buddy was a wee bit off his rocker.

And then came that infamous night. Gauguin informed van Gogh of his intentions to leave, and van Gogh went off the deep end. He grabbed a razor blade and tried to shankhis former friend. Due to his cat-like reflexes, Gauguin was able to flee the house, leaving his troubled friend alone, depressed and armed with a sharp weapon. The perturbed artist chopped off his ear lobe, hustled down to the local brothel and presented a prostitute named Rachel his “gift.” “Guard this object with your life,” he exclaimed before disappearing into the night. A bouquet of roses would have no doubt been preferred.   

Van Gogh completed this painting two weeks after the incident. Here we see a wounded, forlorn, and likely remorseful artist who didn’t know things were about to get much worse. A few weeks later, the local authorities came by his house with a petition signed by 30 of his neighbors and he was forcefully removed from the premises then taken to the psych ward at the local hospital. After a short stay there, van Gogh committed himself to a private mental health facility. A year later he was dead.

It has been believed for a long time that due to his suicidal thoughts and mental instability, van Gogh took his own life. But there are always wacko conspiracy theorists to shake things up. They think Gauguin cut off van Gogh's ear in the fight and that the troubled soul was actually shot by a sixteen-year-old boy. Either way, a gunshot to the chest ended the life of one of the world’s greatest artists and this painting depicts the tipping point of his tragic departure.





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Here is what Wikipedia says about Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear is an 1889 self-portrait by Dutch, Post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh.


In this self-portrait, Van Gogh is shown wearing a blue cap with black fur and a green overcoat, with a bandage covering his ear and extending under his chin. He is in a traditional three-quarter view, and his forward gaze falls slightly to the right, out of the frame. Behind him is an open window, assumedly letting in a winter breeze, a canvas on an easel, with a few indistinguishable marks, as well as a Japanese woodblock print. This woodblock print has been identified as a Geishas in a Landscape published by Sato Tokyo in the 1870s. This shows an important influence of Japonism and wood block print on Van Gogh's work, which also appear in the background of other portraits he had created. The painting is composed of impasto strokes, mostly in a vertical pattern. This creates a texture, which comes up off the canvas and adds dimension to the flat surface. The skin tone is muted with green and yellowish tones. The bandage covering Van Gogh's ear in this painting alludes to his most famous conflict. Van Gogh used a mirror for his self-portraits which is why some mistakenly think that he lost part of his right ear instead of his left.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.