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Death to Van Gogh's Ear!


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#1 Deluge

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 06:55 AM

Here are a few excerpts from Van Gogh’s letters where he himself writes about absinthe.

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 30 April 1889


At this point, I hope, we are permitted to protest against society and to defend ourselves.
We can be fairly sure that the Marseilles artist who committed suicide in no way did it under the influence of absinthe, for the simple reason that no one is likely to have offered him any and he could not have had anything to buy it with. Besides, he would not have drunk it purely for pleasure, but because, being ill already, he kept himself going with it.


Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, c. 21 April 1888


While I think of it, I want to tell you that more and more I doubt the truth of the legend of Monticelli drinking such enormous quantities of absinthe. When I look at his work, I can't think it possible that a man who was flabby with drink could have done that.

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 10 October 1888


I so often think of Monticelli, and when my mind dwells on the stories going around about his death, it seems to me that not only must you exclude the idea of his dying a drunkard in the sense of being besotted by drink, but you must also realise that here as a matter of course one spends one's life in the open air and in cafés far more than in the North. My friend the postman, for instance, lives a great deal in cafés, and is certainly more or less of a drinker, and has been so all his life. But he is so much the reverse of a sot, his exaltation is so natural, so intelligent, and he argues with such sweep, in the style of Garibaldi, that I gladly reduce the legend of Monticelli the drunkard on absinthe to exactly the same proportions as my postman's.

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, c. 21 April 1889


Meanwhile you do understand that if alcohol has undoubtedly been one of the great causes of my madness, then it came on very slowly and will go away slowly too, assuming it does go, of course. Or the same thing if it comes from smoking. But I should only hope that it - this recovery [probably a word has been omitted here] the frightful superstition of some people on the subject of alcohol, so that they prevail upon themselves never to drink or smoke.

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Wilhelmina van Gogh
Saint-Rémy, c. 20-22 October 1889


That physician here has been to Paris, and went to see Theo; he told him that he did not consider me a lunatic, but that the crises I have are of an epileptic nature. Consequently alcohol is also not the cause, though it must be understood that it does me no good either. But it is difficult to return to one's ordinary way of life while one is too despondent over the uncertainty of misfortune. And one goes on clinging to the affections of the past.

#2 Absomphe

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 08:40 AM

There's no drunk like reformed drunk, I always say. :cheers:

Yes, I'm Krinkles the Clown on an absinthe a beer bender.

You got a problem with that?


#3 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 10:30 AM

... and who would know better than you? :harhar:


Thanks Deluge!

Pinned.

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#4 Absomphe

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 07:40 PM

:laf:

Who you callin' reformed, boyeeeeee? :twitchsmile:

Yes, I'm Krinkles the Clown on an absinthe a beer bender.

You got a problem with that?


#5 pt447

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 04:21 PM

It's interesting to hear him speak of it as an illness he was aware of. That he was struggling with it, and that while he may have had other problems, and it wasn't the absinthe which was the cause of them, it surely did not help. Very interesting read!!!
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#6 Alan Moss

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 05:08 AM

Sorry to report this, but one more absinthe myth dies today.

Van Gogh's ear loss may have nothing to do with absinthe ... apparently it may have been Gauguin's fault.
www.laclandestine.com: Hand-crafted in the birthplace of absinthe.

#7 scuto

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 06:44 AM

Gauguin for the win! Mainly because he did a self-portrait of his head in wood and gave himself cat-like features.
"The Saint when he is drinking/Is also pleasing God/As if he were praying and singing." - Angelus Silesius, quoted in Simmel's On Individuality and Social Forms, p.391. (Yay for classical sociology!)

"Full bottle in front of me/Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work/And after many glasses of work/I get paid in the brain" - They Might Be Giants "Your Own Worst Enemy."

"I've an absinthe factory in my head" (jcbphd, 2009). [Liberties taken. -ed.]

#8 MMarking

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 06:22 PM

Van Gogh's ear loss may have nothing to do with absinthe ... apparently it may have been Gauguin's fault.


Maybe he was just helping his friend shave around the tricky jawline...
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#9 Absomphe

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 04:48 AM

Paul Gaugin as Sweeney Todd...intriguing.

Yes, I'm Krinkles the Clown on an absinthe a beer bender.

You got a problem with that?


#10 anonymous green peony

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 08:07 PM

I have long been wanting to get VG's collected letters but they're very expensive ( $60 - $100 and more depending on where you get them)! Now you've got me wanting them again!! Is this where you've got the quotes from? Or is it another book or collection? I haven't read the collected letters but have read other sources that quote correspondence and it has always struck me how clearly he wrote of himself, his ideas and images! Very interesting reading! Thanks!

#11 Titus

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 12:43 PM

the evidence of Gauguin seems lacking...

AGP- I was checking eBay and saw some lesser priced copies of the letters, depending on which version you are looking for.


Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, c. 21 April 1889

Meanwhile you do understand that if alcohol has undoubtedly been one of the great causes of my madness, then it came on very slowly and will go away slowly too, assuming it does go, of course. Or the same thing if it comes from smoking. But I should only hope that it - this recovery [probably a word has been omitted here] the frightful superstition of some people on the subject of alcohol, so that they prevail upon themselves never to drink or smoke.


this raises new questions for me...

#12 Jack Griffin

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 02:36 PM

I had the good fortune to read many of the original letters from Vincent to Theo, back in the 1980s, under glass of course. There was something tactile in seeing the paper, the subtle human transfer of feeling to the ink, the wavering of line as his hand grew tired... It was very moving.

#13 Larspeart

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 08:28 PM

... and who would know better than you? :harhar:


Thanks Deluge!

Pinned.



Love this, Dan. Thank you, buddy.

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