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Van Gogh - paintings and letters

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Introduction

July 27, 1890 On July 27, 1890, a red haired young man of 37 had walked out into a grassy field with his canvas, easel and oil paints. Within minutes, the crack of a revolver was heard though out the seemingly empty countryside. The birds flew up from the wheat fields and scattered, then settled back down to the stalks. Life went on just as before. Born in 1853, Van Gogh wrote approximately 847 written letters and prolifically painted throughout his life. What is relevant is the correlation in the simplest of observations of specific paintings to specific excerpts from his letter that give insight into the cycling state of his mental health. Dr. Jan Hulsker, one of the world's foremost authorities on the letters of Vincent van Gogh, once wrote of them," [His letters] enable us to know more about Van Gogh's life and mentality than we do of any other artist. The letters form a running commentary on his work, and a human document without parallel." Those letters correlated with the psychodynamics as seen in his renderings and paintings point to often blending of ground and boundary lines through his use of color and imagery ( sans clear image boundaries) ...read more.

Middle

get a clear idea of things, why I came here and that after all it is only an accident like any other, a terrible dismay and horror seizes me and prevents me from thinking." One of his paintings which exemplify his depression in the previous month was" Corner in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital, A" and in June 1889 "Starry Night", which makes use of the cypress as does several other paintings during this time frame. There has lapsed a time frame of approximately 2 months. Bi-polar disorder cycles in a typical idiosyncratic pattern in an individual, though is lodged within a consistent time frame. If one follows this thought through the next two months in Van Gogh's behavior fluctuations in behavior may be observed, example #3 is noted in a September painting," Wheat Field with Cypresses" correlated with an excerpt in a September letter to Theo, "And I can already see myself one day in the future enjoying some small success, and missing the solitude and the anguish as I watched the reaper in the field below through the iron bars of my cell. ...read more.

Conclusion

Such changes be they longer in duration or shorter, still are consistent with this diagnosis due to the stresses he repeatedly refers to in terms of his financial stress, his inability to maintain stable relationships with anyone outside his brother, which even that was at times strained. The nature of his psychodynamics appears to be in part dependent on the biological rhythms of biochemistry and also on the situation that may have exacerbated them. It is true that it is still unknown by the psychiatric community which comes first, the disease and dysfunction within society or the environment and how we psychologically experience it at all levels, spiritual, emotional, social and physical that triggers the behavior and the disease itself. When these indicators fail to give us very important information to gain insight into unseemly behavior, it helps to then look at the non-verbal expression of the individual, that being the artwork. It is a powerful tool and in the case of Van Gogh had we had developed this expertise, he might have lived to paint longer into his shortened life, as he once stated" ah...I wonder how many more paintings there might be in me before I die. ...read more.

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