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A Tormented Mind: Vincent Van Gogh's Mental Illness Reflected In His Self Portraits

2934 words - 12 pages

This was a pain to write, but is a quality paper and will pull in a good grade "Excellent work, well-researched and organized"1A Tormented Mind: Vincent van Gogh's Mental Illness Reflected in His Self-PortraitsOn a beautiful summer day in July 1890 Vincent van Gogh, nowrecognized as one of the world's most gifted painters, went down into theopen country of Auvers, France and shot himself in the heart with a revolver(Martini 3). The man who is now known throughout the world for hisrevolutionary artistic talent died in his brother Theo's arms, little known orappreciated in his own time (Barnes 17). Van Gogh's suicide marked theend of a life-long struggle with mental illness and depression which affectedevery aspect of his personal and social life. His unpredictable, sometimeseven violent mental and emotional states led to a life of loneliness andisolation, preventing van Gogh from achieving much recognition or successin his own lifetime. Much of van Gogh's inner pain is reflected in hispaintings -- especially in his own self-portraits. In fact, the fluctuations invan Gogh's mental state and mood due to his mental illness directlyinfluenced his choice of color schemes and facial expressions in his self-portraits. His Self-Portrait painted in 1887 reflects van Gogh's mentalexcitement and optimistic energy during this very productive period of hislife. In contrast, Van Gogh's 1889 Self-Portrait was painted during hisdarkest period of illness and misery and these qualities are expressedthrough van Gogh's technique. His Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889-90) is a testament to the physical effects of van Gogh's illness as well as howclose he was to finally giving up and ending his life by his own hand, whilehis Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel (1888) gives a foreshadowing of vanGogh's passage from a time relatively free of symptoms to a period of mentalRuiz 2pain and turmoil. Through his self-portraits van Gogh communicated hispain and sorrow to the viewer, creating lasting monuments to his chronicsadness as well as to his phenomenal talent.Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 at Groot Zundert, avillage in Dutch Brabant. He was the eldest son of a Protestant clergymannamed Theodorus van Gogh, and his mother's name was Anna CorneliaCarbentus (van Uitert, van Tilborgh, and van Heugten 27). In 1857 vanGogh's brother Theo was born, and for the rest of his life van Gogh wouldremain very close to his younger brother. In many ways, Theo was vanGogh's only friend, and lent him support in times when van Gogh felt totallyisolated and alone. Throughout his childhood van Gogh suffered from a"highly strung, over-sensitive temperament" which contributed to his senseof isolation and loneliness (Barnes 8). He felt alone in the sense that no oneelse could really understand him, and this further cemented the bondbetween van Gogh and his brother. In 1869 van Gogh found employmentwith an art dealership called Goupil and Co, but he soon becamedisenchanted with...

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