April 3, 2012

159 Candles for that Birthday Cake!

Van Gogh Self Portrait

March 30th was Vincent Van Gogh’s 159th birthday. Happy (belated) birthday, Vincent! Today Van Gogh is the most famous artist of the Impressionist period, his paintings sell for millions at auction, but he died alone and penniless in Arles, France in 1890 at age 37. But did he, in fact, kill himself as has always been the theory? Perhaps not.

Bedroom in Arles
A new book published in Oct 2011, "Van Gogh, The Life," presents an intriguing counter theory that Van Gogh did not kill himself but was accidentally murdered by a teenage French punk visiting the scenic town of Arles with his friends, who thought it great sport to tease the eccentric painter. The teenager was playing with a gun, teasingly pointing it at Van Gogh, then bang...Van Gogh was fatally shot and the kid fled the scene! Fascinating, huh?

Still Life with Sunflowers
This sensational theory is not just wishful thinking (or a ploy for book sales and a movie deal!). The authors, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, previous Pulitzer Prize winners for a biography they wrote on the painter, Jackson Pollack, spent years researching Van Gogh. They uncovered notes by the physician treating Van Gogh suggesting that the fatal wound could not have been self-inflicted, and references to the teenagers (sons of well-to-do parents...hmm...) visiting the town and harassing Van Gogh as he painted. And here's a fact not widely known: although Van Gogh's gunshot wound was thought to be self-inflicted, no gun was ever found near his body. What, was Van Gogh a magician as well as an artist?! How does someone fatally shoot himself and then lose the gun? Smells fishy to me.  
Wheatfield with Crows
I won't do an entire book review here but check it out if you're interested. At 953 pages (whew, heavy reading!), the book covers Van Gogh's life, not just his death. It has excerpts from letters he wrote and lovely color photos. And really, how can you have a book on Van Gogh without lots of color?! 
The Night Cafe

Although Vincent Van Gogh never made a dime in his life, and he may or may not have actually killed himself in a moment of tortured passion, he sure left us some beautiful paintings!
Seems that many talented artists are right on the edge of sanity/insanity. Perhaps that’s what makes them so brilliant.
Wheatfield with Cypresses
Now I understand what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity, how you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how,
Perhaps they'll listen now.” ~Vincent (Starry Starry Night) by Don McLean

Starry Night
Vincent, I understand!

Video of Don McLean’s song with a slideshow of Van Gogh’s work done for patients at Mississippi State Hospital. Complied by artist Anthony DiFatta, who teaches art to adults suffering from mental illness. 

Dedicated to Mom.
©2012 JerseyLil’s 2 cents.


  1. Vincent Van Gogh,has always been my favorite! Such a tragic life for such an emotional gentle soul.
    You can feel the pain and joy in his paintings!!
    It is often through deep emotional that the soul is captured on canvas!!

  2. Yes, you really captured it, Rose, that is so true!! Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist, too.

  3. Really enjoyed your information. And thinking about getting that book. Never realized he was that young when he died...
    Looks like money has always been the way to change a story....things haven't changed much...

  4. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it! You are so right about money changing things. If Van Gogh had been a person of means, his death would have been better investigated. That book is really very interesting and well researched. Gives you a whole different view of Van Gogh, both his life and his death.

  5. van Gogh has always been so influential in my own painting, especially the use of color. this sounds like a very interesting book. would love to visit some of the areas in which he painted.

  6. Kris, I love Van Gogh's use of color, too! The book is quite interesting. I'd love to one day visit some of the areas where he painted as well. I love your profile painting of a woman wearing mommy and doctor hats, and I can see Van Gogh’s color influence. Do you have a blog displaying your paintings? You are talented!