Travels and Pivotal Moments


“You can’t be at the pole and the equator at the same time. You must choose your own line, as I hope to do, and it will probably be color.” —Vincent Van Gogh

The next year’ 1888 was a truly pivotal year for Vincent Van Gogh. In February’ Vincent decided he would leave his beloved Theo and all the influence he had gained there for Arles’ which is to the South. It was an incredibly tough decision for Vincent’ but true to character’ he followed his heart. When Vincent arrived in Arles it was quite cold and it prevented him from working much at all. Once spring arrived’ Vincent began painting the beautiful Provence landscapes. Van Gogh also rented out his famous “Yellow House” in May but didn’t move in until September. The Yellow House was rented in preparation for a base of sorts for what he envisioned as his “Studio of the South”.

Of course’ always his brothers’ keeper’ Theo is the one that paid the way to Arles and the Yellow House. Vincent couldn’t take his mind off his dreams’ his visions’ and his future and continued to spend large portions of Theo’s money on art supplies and things he deemed necessary for his continued artist’s life style. Because Vincent Van Gogh was so focused on art supplies and the future’ he didn’t take very good care of himself; this oversight left him overworked and malnourished causing his health to decline in the early part of October of that year.

Vincent seemed to make a speedy recovery when he realized his now good friend’ Gaugin’ would join him at the Yellow House in the South. Vincent worked tirelessly to prepare the Yellow House for Gaugin and to be sure that he felt welcomed when he did arrive. Finally’ on October 23rd Gaugin arrived in Arles via train and Vincent couldn’t have been happier. Again’ he felt like he had someone to connect with’ and desperate for love and attention’ there was nothing that could have made Vincent feel more alive and well rounded. Little did either Gaugin or Van Gogh know’ the next few weeks would prove life changing for both of them.

In the beginning of their time at the Yellow House together’ Van Gogh and Gaugin got along very well and enjoyed the company of one another very much. This time with Gaugin and the months before proved to be a very active and rewarding time for Vincent as an artist’ as he completed some of his best work here. The beauty of the landscape definitely proved to be inspiration for Van Gogh. Gaugin and Van Gogh enjoyed painting on the outer reaches of Arles’ and even discussing their art and techniques. They had much to learn from one another’ and seemed to enjoy their long discussions and even debates. But’ as time wore on and the weather changed’ the two found themselves cooped up’ just the two of them’ more and more. As they began to spend more time in near isolation together the relationship started to falter. The two began to argue’ and the arguments would escalate quickly and over time became more frequent. Later’ Van Gogh would describe their arguments as “electric” in letters to Theo’ and as much as they both tried their relationship would decline in correlation with the mental health of Vincent.

Perhaps the worst occasion at the Yellow House’ and the true end to their living situation’ took place on December 24 just two months after Gaugin had arrived at Yellow House. The men had been in yet another argument’ and in a true fit of madness Vincent Van Gogh severed the lower portion of his left ear with a razor. After he mutilated the ear’ Vincent wrapped it in a cloth and took it to a brothel and gave it to one of the women there. Out of his mind with overwhelming emotion’ Vincent staggered back to the Yellow House where he collapsed.

Sadly’ Vincent was later discovered by the police and hospitalized at the Hotel-Dieu hospital in Arles. Knowing he needed help’ Gaugin contacted Theo by telegram and then immediately left the Yellow House. So distraught by the events of the past weeks’ Gaugin opted not to visit Vincent in the hospital and went back to Paris. Though they had become fast friends’ the two would never come face to face again’ although they did correspond a few times. Like previous episodes’ Vincent recovered quickly’ by the early days of January he was feeling much more like himself again.

Though Vincent was feeling like himself again’ some of the citizens of Arles weren’t feeling as though they wanted him to be around. Vincent had made himself noticeable’ too noticeable in all the wrong ways’ and a petition was written and signed detailing their concerns about his behavior. The mayor of Arles was given the signed petition and it was eventually given to the superintendent of the police who decided to order that Van Gogh be readmitted to the Hotel-Dieu hospital. Vincent’ having recovered from his fit’ realized what a serious position he was in’ and called upon Theo for help and consultation. After serious discussion with Theo’ Vincent decided it would be best to have himself voluntarily admitted to the Saint-Paul¬de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Remy-de¬Provence’ and left Arles on May eighth. Though Theo didn’t like the idea of his brother in an asylum’ he knew it would probably be best for Vincent’ who was always on the verge of another breakdown of sorts’ even at his best.

Once settled into the new hospital’ Dr. Paul Gachet’ whom Vincent befriended during his stay’ cared for Vincent. And though Vincent assumed that his mental health would improve’ by 1890 it was obvious that his mental health just continued to deteriorate’ at best his condition was fluctuating wildly from moment to moment. Vincent felt very guilty for relying on Theo for all those years’ and though they had always remained close physically or through correspondence’ he hated that he had been so dependant upon him. Vincent felt guilty that he had been relying on Theo so much’ especially since he had a wife and a son’ yet he still hadn’t been able to succeed in any form or fashion.
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