Van Gogh Murders Gauguin
by Jeff Provine
says: what if Brezhnev had ordered a Christmas stand down in
Afghanistan? muses Jeff Provine's on his excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On December 23rd 1888,
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icon to follow us on Facebook.on this day the troubled life of
Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh took its darkest turn as he murdered his
roommate and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin.
Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, and suffered a lifetime of mental
illness, most based in anxiety and magnified by poor nutrition and
alcohol. He described his youth as "gloomy and cold and sterile" in a
later letter to his brother Theo. Boarding school troubled him as a
student, prompting him to leave abruptly. His uncle managed to find him a
position as an art dealer, bringing van Gogh to London where he fell in
love with his landlady's daughter. She rejected him, and he fled to Paris,
where he lost his job after voicing his opinions that art was not to be
treated as a commodity.
After stints as a minister's assistant, bookshop worker, and missionary,
in 1880, he decided to become an artist in pursuit of God's service. His
early work while in the Netherlands was notoriously dark and somber, such
as The Potato Eaters with its ugly portrayal of genuine peasants. In 1886,
he moved to Paris to study art further, moving in with his younger brother
Theo, who had always supported Vincent financially and emotionally
despite, or because of, his worries about Vincent's mental health.
Van Gogh's work brightened, and Theo used his art-dealer connections to
introduce him to many other artists whose work helped to influence van
Gogh's growing styles. After some 200 paintings and two years imbibing and
smoking too much, van Gogh sought to leave the city in pursuit of a dream
of an artists' colony. He settled in Arles in the south of France, much to
the chagrin of locals and, after ten months, persuaded his friend Paul
Gauguin to join him.
"Too bad we can't sit him down and come to know the
man." - reader's commentsGauguin, five years van Gogh's senior, was
a man of experimentation and a leader in the Symbolist movement. He held
some Peruvian blood and had lived in South America in his youth. After
serving in the French Navy, marrying a Danish woman, and beginning a
career as a stockbroker, he quit it all in 1885 to paint full time.
Gauguin had met van Gogh in 1887, and the two shared similar experiences
with depression. In October of 1888, he moved to stay with van Gogh in his
famed Yellow House in Arles, beginning a nine-week deterioration of their
friendship that would lead into an altercation where van Gogh slashed
Gauguin's throat with a razor.
"If this isn't the most ghoulish TL ever posted
here, it certainly ranks in the top five." - reader's commentsAccording
to interviews, van Gogh immediately regretted his action and attempted to
save Gauguin by gingerly holding his throat, but the latter bled to death.
Neighbors were roused by van Gogh carrying Gauguin's body into the street
and screaming for the police to arrest a murderer. Van Gogh was indeed
arrested and sentenced to death, though his brother Theo successfully
campaigned (and bribed) for Vincent to be placed permanently into a mental
institution. There van Gogh was allowed to paint and was studied by
Great shock was raised in Paris, London, and Brussels at word of the
Murderer-Artist, and galleries were filled with his works, instantly in
demand and expensive. Van Gogh had achieved fame, but he remained in
horrid mental condition at the guilt of murder. When his brother died in
1891 of syphilis's dementia paralytica (believed from over-celebration at
his newfound wealth), Vincent stopped painting and became increasingly
suicidal, famously stabbing out his left eye with a paintbrush. After
months of interrupted attempts, van Gogh hanged himself by his own shirt.
The shock increased throughout Europe's artistic circles, and the new
reaction was that the post-Impressionist style was too much for the human
mind. It became unpopular among the wealthy to pay artists to paint
unrealistically, just as one would not pay to see dogs fight. Underground
galleries continued to show lesser known artistic experiments, but New
Realism dominated the art world until the horrors of World War I gave a
new call for escapism. Haunting Abstractionism and Surrealism of the Mad
Generation exploded across Europe and North America in the 1920s and '30s,
which itself would ultimately fall as the pendulum of taste swept back
toward realistic depictions in art for the next twenty years.
says in reality van Gogh only threatened Gauguin with the razor. He
panicked at his actions and fled to a local brothel, where he famously cut
off the lobe of his left ear and gave it to a prostitute. Gauguin never saw
van Gogh again, instead going about finding his "tropical paradise" and
pioneering Primitivism. Van Gogh would spend the rest of his life in and out
of hospitals while also painting some of his best known works such as
Starry Night. He went for a walk in a field on July 27, 1890, and shot
himself in the chest. To view guest historian's comments on this post please
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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