Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55b6f6c457-z8dxg Total loading time: 0.33 Render date: 2021-09-23T11:12:18.445Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Vincent van Gogh and mental illness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Arabinda Narayan Chowdhury*
Affiliation:
Stuart Road Clinic, Northamptonshire NHS Trust, Corby, Northants NN17 1RJ, UK. Email: arabinda.chowdhury@btinternet.com
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]

Abstract

Type
Columns
Copyright
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008 

Many thanks to the Journal for printing Vincent van Gogh's work on Dr Felix Rey 1 and honouring this genius artist who despite his episodic mental illness creatively contributed to the repertoire of impressionist art. But I wonder why this painting was chosen? I think a different choice could have been more meaningful. Three medical doctors were involved with the treatment of van Gough: Dr Felix Rey (1867–1932), who diagnosed van Gogh's epilepsy; Dr Théophile Zacharie Auguste Peyron (1827–95) of Saint-Remy asylum who also diagnosed ‘a type of epilepsy’ – he was a very understanding physician who arranged facilities within the asylum for van Gogh's paintings and artwork; and Dr Paul Gachet (1828–1909) who treated van Gogh during his last 10 weeks of life.

van Gogh painted two portraits and an etching of Dr Gachet, one of which (Portrait of Doctor Gachet, June 1890) was auctioned in 1990 for an astounding sum of US$ 82.5 million. Young intern Dr Rey probably maintained distance because he saw van Gogh during his psychotic state, shortly after the ear mutilation episode. He failed to value the artist's creativity and thus was not possessive of the gift presented to him, which he described afterwards:

‘Vincent was above all a miserable, wretched man,… he would talk to me about complementary colours. But I really could not understand why red should not be red, and green not green!… When I saw that he outlined my head entirely in green (he had only two main colours, red and green), that he painted my hair and my mustache – I really did not have red hair – in a blazing red on a biting green background, I was simply horrified. What should I do with this present?’ Reference Brauman and Auden2

Dr Gachet was very supportive of van Gogh and valued his creative instinct. Vincent had found a ‘true friend’ in him. It is a matter of pride for the medical fraternity that Dr Gachet was highly admired by van Gogh and that he tried his best to keep van Gogh's tormented soul at peace and allow his creativity to flourish in the village atmosphere of Auvers. van Gogh created a series of paintings, at least 14, illustrating the Saint-Remy asylum. Any of them may be appropriate for the Journal to focus on with regard to his creativity of the use of colour and space to astonishing effect. Those paintings are carrying the historical value of mental health perspectives so far as the asylum culture of his time is concerned.

References

1 Front matter. Portrait of Dr Rey. Br J Psychiatry 2008; 192:(4).Google Scholar
2 Brauman, M. With friends of van Gogh's in Arles. In Van Gogh: A Self-portrait: Letters Revealing his Life as a Painter (selected by Auden, WH): 353–54. New York Graphic Society, 1961.Google Scholar
Submit a response

eLetters

No eLetters have been published for this article.
You have Access

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Vincent van Gogh and mental illness
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Vincent van Gogh and mental illness
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Vincent van Gogh and mental illness
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *