Why did Vicent Van Gogh cut off his ear?

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Old 06 June 2005   #1
Why did Vicent Van Gogh cut off his ear?

I've heard/read numerous versions of this story. But I have no clue which one is the true story!
Can someone briefly tell me why Van Gogh cut off his ear? (The real version!)

Old 06 June 2005   #2
He was insane
Old 06 June 2005   #3
He cut off his ear to give to his love to prove his devotion to her, and yes a little insane
Old 06 June 2005   #4
Ears are surprisingly heavy, it weighed upon his creativity.

Unfortunately for Vinny the video camera had not yet been invented, if it had he would surely have been hailed as the new Genius of performance art.
Old 06 June 2005   #5
I read a small biography about him. It said that the previous day he had been arguing with his friend Gaugin about the painting Gaugin had painted of him. Van Gogh insisted that Gaugin had painted him as insane. He said Gaugin something like "It's me but I'm insane". Vincent was suffering from depression caused by lack of proper food and unhealthy lifestyle. No-one can actually say why he cut his ear off but the fight with Gaugin must have driven him deeper into depression and self hatred.
Old 06 June 2005   #6
He had a constant ringing noise in his ears cause by bouts of seizure.
Old 06 June 2005   #7
Uhm... but he didn't actually cut off his ear. He only cut his earlobe. Still not quite healthy, but better than cutting off the whole ear.
Old 06 June 2005   #8
@Katinka, that is more or less what seems to have happened. But I think it is more complicated than that. Van Gogh showed signs of instability long before he cut off part of his ear after the fight with Gauguin. I know that because I have read many of the letters he wrote to his brother Theo and two of his friends. He also drank a lot of absinthe. Absinthe of the 19th century contained a small dose of digitalis "to strengthen the heart". When taken in large quantities, digitalis is poisonous. It causes blurred vision and seeing halo's (like in Starry Night), intestinal cramps and lack of apetite (which is probably another reason why Van Gogh was malnourished).

In proper medicine, digitalis is given to people with a irregular heartbeat, but not to people suffering from depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and any other mental illness.
Nobody knows for sure what was wrong with Van Gogh. Some say (temporal lobe) epilepsy, some say schizophrenia. Seems to me that his abuse of absinthe worsened whatever illness he had.
Old 06 June 2005   #9
Originally Posted by THX: He had a constant ringing noise in his ears cause by bouts of seizure.

I heard in my art history class it was because of certain chemicals in the paint that caused him to have a ringing in his ear after years of exposure to the chemical. But yes.
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Old 06 June 2005   #10
Are you kidding me? , does this actually belong on an art discussion forum? To whom as an artist does this matter in self betterment?

He did because HE WAS NOT on top of himself...I mean...ok....whatever...

edit: and why do you expect people having been born way past his ' bedtime' to know this?
modelling practice #1
Old 06 June 2005   #11
art and craziness seem to go hand in hand... being a brilliant artist requires that one is somewhat detached from reality, perhaps more so than average. I know I am (the detached part, not the brilliance )

You could say that better art = more crazy, and so it was inevitable that he'd do something silly eventually!

I'm with spence though, I'm sure he was doing it because the act would incite a response, thus defining it as a special breed of experimental art. Art is purely subjective anyway, so it's not like this was any worse than any of his other works.

Old 06 June 2005   #12
More importantly - why did Travis Bickle shave off his hair and give himself a mohawk?
sketch blog
Old 06 June 2005   #13
Originally Posted by stepington: More importantly - why did Travis Bickle shave off his hair and give himself a mohawk?

Because the punk inside him finally broke out.
Old 06 June 2005   #14
Originally Posted by stepington: More importantly - why did Travis Bickle shave off his hair and give himself a mohawk?

some film critics say this was a reference to john fords 'the searchers', where john wayne plays a cowboy trying to 'save' his neice from native americans who had kidnapped her. in taxi driver its reversed, bickle 'becomes' a mohican when he shaves his head, and saves iris from the pimp.

there is also a scene just before this where he drives past a cinema playing 'texas chainsaw massacre', which signifies the jump the film makes from slow burn drama to horror film.

there are so many layers to that film. i studied it in university back in the day and its been a favourite since as long as i remember.
Old 06 June 2005   #15
@katinka Yeah, his biography says about him and Gaugin. I've read it few years ago.
I've heard that story about long term absinth usage and "green fairy"
@vijil No, art and craziness don't to go hand in hand. They never did. It's a common misunderstanding of artists and world they (and we) live in.

Vincent surely went a bit "off". But for my point of view that's abolutely understandable when you take a look his work and (more importantly) his life. Never sold a painting, never get recognition, life in pain, hunger etc. Who can preserve sanity!?
New web portfolio: www.vojislavmilanovic.com
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