Christ of the Coal Yards: A Critical Biography of Vincent Van Gogh
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No one heard the shot. No one ever found the gun. It was Sunday, July 27, 1890. Vincent had recently finished 'Wheatfield with Crows', thought to be his final painting, one that he described as representing 'vast fields of wheat beneath troubled skies', one where he said in a letter he meant to send to Theo 'I did not need to go out of my way to try to express cheerlessness and extreme loneliness'. The letter never got sent, but was found stuffed in his smock. That morning, as usual, he walked out into the wheat fields with his easel, brushes, tubes of color and folding stool, perhaps hoping to reach his destination before the gang of local boys and girls were up and able to tease him and throw tomatoes. Le Crau, a wide plain of ripe grain, fields of citron, yellow, tan, and ochre, spread out beneath the bright Provencal sun. It's safe to assume he heard the cicadas singing loudly, the swiping swishes of the farmers' scythes already cutting through the rich wheat stalks, the gusts of wind whispering through the olive branches. Driven and filled with energy for months, he had been quickly, with an assurance that overcame and perhaps even came from his doubts and struggles, putting his own dramatic visions on canvas after canvas. But today he did not go into the fields to paint, or, perhaps, in the beginning he did, perhaps in the morning that was his intention. No one will ever know. He said he brought the revolver to frighten off the crows. Possibly that was his original intention when he included it with his lunch of bread and milk. In the end it's probably not relevant, except for the endless attempts to analyze him, to dig into his complex psyche, at once brilliant and yet impelled to self-destruction. The Ravoux family were sitting on the terrace of their cafe when he returned, a bit concerned because he was late, but not overly so. When he finally appeared, his walk was more uneven than usual, and he held his hand over his stomach. 'Monsieur Vincent', Mrs. Ravoux said, 'we were worried, we are glad to see you come. Has anything bad happened?' 'No, but I...' he left his reply unfinished as he passed inside. Mr. Ravoux followed him upstairs, where he found him sitting on his bed, facing the wall. 'I wanted to kill myself'. This book is a critical examination of Vincent van Gogh that offers insights into his life, his religious beliefs, his relationships with women, and, of course, his paintings. It includes discussions of his letters, and responds to many of the previous works about him, dispelling some of the myths that have no foundation and pointing out how many of the claims made about him and many of the popular beliefs that have grown up around him are at best guesswork. It explores psychological, neurological, theological, philosophical, aesthetic, and historical paradigms for comprehending his enigmatic and enticing personality.
is a distilled, anise-flavored liquor (60 – 80 %), derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the medicinal plant Artemisia absinthium, also called “wormwood.” Since it is typically of a natural green color, a result of the chlorophyll in the herbal ingredients present during maceration, it is often called “the Green Fairy.” The usual way of drinking it involved pouring it through a sugar cube on a slotted spoon. It originated in Val-de-Travers, Switzerland, as a medical elixir, but
where, in addition to his upbeat, positive tone, he encourages Theo to look on the positive side, beginning with “I was glad you answered me so soon and that you like Brussels and have found a nice boarding-house. Don't lose heart if it is very difficult at times, everything will come out all right and nobody can in the beginning do as he wishes.” (13). In March, he finds he is going to be transferred to London, and it is clear he has both enjoyed his time at The Hague and is excited about his
we meet again at Christmas.” (52) REPLACEMENT CHILD SYNDROME Humberto Nagera, with his huge credentials in Freudian child psychology, especially in the field of obsessional neurosis, and strong support from Freud’s daughter, Anna, who wrote a brief introduction to the book, boldly offers the first important Freudian analysis of Vincent’s childhood, basing it, as he emphasizes, mainly on The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh published by Thames and Hudson. It is quickly apparent that Nagera
Vincent’s ever increasing religious fanaticism, continuing to couch it in terms of his need for acceptance from his father, and offering several passages from Vincent’s letters demonstrating both this desire and, at times, the belief that he was indeed being successful satisfying his father’s desire. Nagera quotes Vincent: “It is good to think of Jesus in all places and circumstances . . . You do not know how I am drawn to the Bible; I read it daily, but I should like to know it by heart and to
brain. It is in the mind, specifically in the right hemisphere of the cerebrum, beyond explanation, where meaning and value exist, where the spiritual and the physical merge. What Vincent believed during the time he was trying to be Christlike in religious terms was that one needed to be physically Christlike, needed to suffer physically as Christ had suffered physically. His great insight would come during the year after he failed in religious terms. Literal physical suffering might lead to