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The Van Gogh Dossier : Mad or Genius

Museums that display work of Vincent van Gogh in The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, USA, Japan, Egypt. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, Van Gogh Village Nuenen, Kröller-Müller Museum Otterlo, Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal .....

Dolhuys Museum Haarlem presents the exhibition The Van Gogh Dossier : Mad or Genius.




Het Dolhuys Museum - Haarlem



The Van Gogh Dossier : Mad or Genius

The Van Gogh Dossier : Mad or Genius

The Dolhuys Museum in Haarlem presents the exhibition The Van Gogh Dossier : Mad or Genius. The exhibition which offers new insights into the personality of Vincent van Gogh.

The exhibition focuses on the possible link between his mental instability and is artistic calling.

Attention is also paid to image-building, since Van Gogh is commonly thought to have been a mad artist. it was exactly 120 years ago on 29 July 2010 that Van Gogh died, two days after attempting to commit suicide.

The exhibition focuses on the last two years of Van Gogh's life, half which he spent in an asylum in Saint-Remy, France. Since his death in 1890, various psychiatrists have tried, with hindsight, to analyse his state of mind, basing their diagnoses on the evidence provided by his paintings.

The Swiss psychiatrist Karl Jaspers (1922), for example, thought that Van Gogh was a schizophrenic genius whereas the American psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison maintains that he was manic depressive. Then again, the film Lust for Life, based on Irving Stone's biographical novel, images of which are shown at the exhibition, portrays Van gogh mainly as an artist who suffered from psychoses that drove him paint at lightning speed.

While going through the exhibition, however, one's view of the artic gradually changes, particularly because of what Van Gogh himself says about the connection between his mental state and his artistic output. He wrote to his brother Theo, for example: As far as I can judge I'm not mad, strictly speaking. You'll see that the canvases I've done in the intervals are calm and not inferior to others.

The exhibition illustrates these various views of Van gogh by means of film and audio fragments, and by displaying reproductions of paintings made during and after his stay at the asylum in Saint-Remy. An item of interest, to which attention is paid here for the first time, is a petition, signed by his neighbours in Arles after the ear incident, insisting on his confinement to a hospital or psychiatric institution.

The Van Gogh dossier is an interactive exhibition where it is possible to compile one's own dossier on the artist. By answering a series of questions about Van Gogh, visitors can decide for themselves whether he was a madman or a genius. This exhibition is mounted in cooperation with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

> Read more ... Het Dolhuys Museum - Haarlem

Van Gogh Writing



The Letters by Van Gogh about his madness

The Letters by Van Gogh about his madness

Letter 155 - To Theo van Gogh. Cuesmes, between about Tuesday, 22 and Thursday, 24 June 1880

My dear Theo,
It?s with some reluctance that I write to you, not having done so for so long,1 and that for many a reason. Up to a certain point you?ve become a stranger to me, and I too am one to you, perhaps more than you think; perhaps it would be better for us not to go on this way.
It?s possible that I wouldn?t even have written to you now if it weren?t that I?m under the obligation, the necessity, of writing to you. If, I say, you yourself hadn?t imposed that necessity. I learned at Etten that you had sent fifty francs for me; well, I accepted. Certainly reluctantly, certainly with a rather melancholy feeling, but I?m in some sort of impasse or mess; what else can one do?
And so it?s to thank you for it that I?m writing to you.
As you may perhaps know, I?m back in the Borinage; my father spoke to me of staying in the vicinity of Etten instead; I said no, and I believe I acted thus for the best. Without wishing to, I?ve more or less become some sort of impossible and suspect character in the family, in any event, somebody who isn?t trusted, so how, then, could I be useful to anybody in any way?
That?s why, first of all, so I?m inclined to believe, it is beneficial and the best and most reasonable position to take, for me to go away and to remain at a proper distance, as if I didn?t exist. What molting is to birds, the time when they change their feathers, that?s adversity or misfortune, hard times, for us human beings. One may remain in this period of molting, one may also come out of it renewed, but it?s not to be done in public, however; it?s scarcely entertaining, it?s not cheerful, so it?s a matter of making oneself scarce. Well, so be it. Now, although it may be a thing of rather demoralizing difficulty to regain the trust of an entire family perhaps not entirely devoid of prejudices and other similarly honorable and fashionable qualities, nevertheless, I?m not utterly without hope that little by little, slowly and surely, a good understanding may be re-established with this person and that ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 155 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 249 - To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Friday, 21 July 1882

Dear Brother,
It?s already late, but I wanted to write to you again. You aren?t here, yet I?m in need of you, and it seems to me as if we aren?t far apart sometimes.
Today I made an agreement with myself, which was to regard my illness, or rather what?s left of it, as non-existent. Enough time has been lost, the work must be carried on.
So, well or not well, I?m going to draw again regularly from morning till evening. I don?t want anyone else to be able to say, Oh, those are only old drawings.
I?ve drawn a study of the cradle today with touches of colour in it
I?m also working on a ditto like the meadows I recently sent you ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 249 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 250 - To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Sunday, 23 July 1882

My dear Theo,
I received your letter and the 50-franc note enclosed. I thank you right heartily for both, and I?m delighted that you gave me some details about your visit.
Do you think we could agree that while you?re here we?ll spend the time together that?s left after your business and visits and then do our best, on both sides, to be in the same sort of mood as in the past at the Rijswijk mill?
As for me, old chap - although the mill has gone and with it the years and my past youth, just as irrevocably - what has reawakened deep inside me is the belief that there?s something good and that it?s worthwhile making an effort and doing one?s best to take life seriously. This is now perhaps, or rather certainly, more firmly rooted in me than in the past, when I had experienced less. For me the point now is to express the poetry of those days in drawings.
Your letter to me crossed mine, in which I told you I?d decided to carry on working regularly, well or not well ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 250 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 312 - To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Sunday, 11 February 1883

Dear brother,
It?s Sunday again and I?m writing again. Sometimes it seems to me that I haven?t told you warmly and sincerely enough how deeply touched I?ve been by what you?ve told me of late. As to whether a sincerely felt love could turn into a lost illusion, I don?t doubt that it sometimes happens - it would surprise me very much if it happened in your case, and I don?t believe it will happen to me. Michelet says, singularly, that love is a spider?s web at first and grows to be as strong as a cable. Provided there is faithfulness, that is ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 312 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 327 - To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Sunday, 11 March 1883

My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter of 9 March and for the enclosure. Is your patient making good progress? I hope that no news about her is good news.
If it was as cold in your part of the world as it was here last week, she wouldn?t have been best pleased. While for your part you say you sometimes long for us to be able to talk rather more about various things in art, for my part I feel that longing constantly, and on occasion very strongly.
I would so often dearly like to know your opinion about this or that - about some studies &c., for example whether they might be made into something suitable, or whether it was advisable to press on with something for one purpose or another. I would like so often to have more information about matters which you certainly know more about than I do, and would dearly like to hear more about what?s going on, namely what sorts of thing are being made. This can all be dealt with in part by letter, but writing takes time and one doesn?t get round to it easily, nor can one go into things in sufficient detail ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 327 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 574 - To Willemien van Gogh. Paris, late October 1887

My dear little sister,
I thank you for your letter, although for my part I so detest writing these days, however there are questions in your letter that I do want to answer.
I must begin by contradicting you where you say that you thought Theo looked ?so wretched? this summer.
For my part, I think on the contrary that Theo?s appearance has become much more distinguished in the last year.
You have to be strong to endure life in Paris the way he has for so many years.
But might it not be that Theo?s family and friends in Amsterdam and The Hague haven?t treated him and even not received him with the cordiality that he deserved from them and to which he was entitled? ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 574 to Willemien van Gogh


Letter 764 - To Willemien van Gogh. Arles, between about Sunday, 28 April and Thursday, 2 May 1889

My dear sister,
Your kind letter really touched me, especially since it tells me that you?ve returned to care for Mrs. du Quesne.
Certainly cancer is a terrible illness, as for me, I always shiver when I see a case ? and it isn?t rare in the south, although often it?s not the real incurable, mortal cancer but cancerous abscesses from which one sometimes recovers. Whatever the case, you?re very brave, my sister, not to recoil before these Gethsemanes. And I feel less brave than you when I think of these things, feeling awkward, heavy and clumsy in them. We have, if my memory serves, a Dutch proverb to this effect: they aren?t the worst fruits that wasps gnaw at.
This leads me straight to what I wanted to say, ivy loves the old lopped willows each spring, ivy loves the trunk of the old oak tree ? and so cancer, that mysterious plant, attaches itself so often to people whose lives were nothing but ardent love and devotion. So, however terrible the mystery of these pains may be, the horror of them is sacred, and in them there might indeed be a gentle, heartbreaking thing, just as we see the green moss in abundance on the old thatched roof. However, I don?t know anything about it ? I have no right to assert anything ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 764 to Willemien van Gogh


Letter 602 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 1 May 1888

My dear Theo,
Thank you very much for your letter and the 50-franc note it contained. It?s not in black that I see the future, but I see it bristling with many difficulties, and at times I wonder if these won?t be stronger than I am. This is especially so at times of physical weakness, and last week I suffered from a toothache that was so agonizing that it made me waste time quite in spite of myself. Nevertheless, I?ve just sent you a roll of small pen drawings, a dozen I think. That way you?ll see that even though I?d stopped painting I haven?t stopped working. Among them you?ll find a hasty crocus on yellow paper, a lawn in the public garden at the entrance to the town. And in the background a house more or less like this one ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 602 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 611 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Sunday, 20 May 1888

My dear Theo,
What you write about your visit to Gruby has upset me, but at the same time it reassures me that you went there.
Have you considered that your lethargy - a feeling of extreme lassitude - could have been caused by this heart condition, and that in that case potassium iodide couldn?t be blamed for these periods of stupefied exhaustion? If you remember how stupefied I was myself this winter, to the point of being quite incapable! of doing anything whatsoever, apart from a little painting, although I wasn?t taking potassium iodide at all. So if I were you, I?d have it out with Rivet if Gruby tells you not to take it.
And it will in any case - I have no doubt about it - be your intention to be friends with both the one and the other.
I often think of Gruby here and now, and in short I feel well, but it?s because here I have the pure air and the heat, which make things more possible for me. Among all the trials and the bad air of Paris, Rivet takes things as they are without trying to create a paradise and without in the slightest way trying to make us perfect. But he forges a suit of armor, or rather, he inures us to illness and keeps morale up, I find, by making fun of the trouble we have. ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 611 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 638 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 9 or Tuesday, 10 July 1888

My dear Theo,
I?ve just come back from a day at Montmajour, and my friend the second lieutenant kept me company. So the two of us explored the old garden and we stole some excellent figs there. If it had been bigger it would have made you think of Zola?s Paradou, tall reeds, grape vines, ivy, fig trees, olive trees, pomegranate trees with fat flowers of the brightest orange, hundred-year-old cypresses, ash trees and willows, rock oaks. Half-demolished staircases, ruined Gothic windows, clumps of white rock covered in lichen, and pieces of collapsed wall scattered here and there in the undergrowth; I brought back another large drawing of it. Not of the garden, though. That makes 3 drawings; when I have half dozen, will send them.
Yesterday I went to Fontvieille to pay a visit to Boch and MacKnight, but those gentlemen had left for a week for a short trip to Switzerland.
I think the heat is still doing me good, in spite of the mosquitoes and flies.
The cicadas - not those at home but like this, ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 638 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 650 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 29 July 1888

My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your kind letter. If you recall, mine ended with: we?re getting old, that?s what is and the rest is imagination and doesn?t exist. Now, I said that even more for myself, than for you. And I said it feeling the absolute necessity for me to act accordingly, to work, not more, perhaps, but with a more serious conception.
Now you talk about the emptiness you sometimes feel; that?s just the same thing that I have, too. Considering, if you will, the times in which we live as a true and great revival of art, the moth-eaten and official tradition, which is still on its feet, but which is at bottom powerless and bone-idle, the new painters, alone, poor, treated like madmen and as a result of this treatment becoming so in fact, at least as far as their social life is concerned.
Then remember that you do exactly the same work as these primitive painters, since you provide them with money and you sell their canvases for them, which enables them to produce others ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 650 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 673 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 3 September 1888

My dear Theo,
Yesterday I spent another day with that Belgian - who also has a sister among the Vingtistes - the weather wasn?t good but it was a jolly good day for chatting; we went for a walk, and all the same we did see some very fine things at the bullfights and outside the town. We talked more seriously about the plan that if I keep on lodgings in the south, he should definitely set up a kind of post in the coal-fields. That then Gauguin and he and I, in cases where the importance of a painting would be a reason for travelling, could exchange places - sometimes being in the north, but in a familiar part of the country where we have a friend, sometimes in the south. You?ll see him soon, this young man with the Dante-like face, because he?s coming to Paris, and if the room?s available you?ll be doing him a favour by putting him up.3 He?s quite distinguished in appearance, and he?ll become so in his paintings, I believe. He likes Delacroix, and we talked a lot about Delacroix yesterday; actually he knew the violent sketch ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 673 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 702 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Wednesday, 10 or Thursday, 11 October 1888

My dear Theo,
When lately I very often think that all the costs of painting weigh on you, you couldn?t imagine what anxiety I have about it. When things like what you describe about Bague in your last letter happen to us, then we must be on the point of selling. Or much rather, we must be on the point of being able to find some help, either from Thomas or from someone else, of the half-dealer, half-collector sort. Thus C.M., even without helping us in any other way, could buy another study from us. I don?t know if you?ve ever read Les frères Zemganno by the De Goncourts, who perhaps loosely retrace their own history. If you know it, you?ll know, more than I?d know how to express to you, that I fear that the effort of obtaining money for us will be too exhausting for you ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 702 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 732 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Wednesday, 10 or Thursday, 11 October 1888

My dear Theo,
Perhaps I won?t write you a really long letter today, but anyhow a line to let you know that I returned home today. How I regret that you were troubled for such a little thing, forgive me, for I am after all probably the primary cause of it. I hadn?t foreseen that it would lead to you being told about it. Enough.
Mr Rey came to see the painting with two of his doctor friends, and they at least understand darned quickly what complementary is. Now I?m planning to do Mr. Rey?s portrait and possibly other portraits as soon as I?ve accustomed myself a little to painting once again.
Thank you for your last letter, I do indeed always feel your presence, but on your side you should also know that I?m working on the same thing as yourself.
Ah, how I wish that you?d seen the portrait of Bruyas by Delacroix and the whole museum at Montpellier where Gauguin took me ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 732 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 743 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 28 January 1889

My dear Theo,
Just a few words to tell you that I?m getting along so-so as regards my health and work.
Which I already find astonishing when I compare my state today with that of a month ago. I well knew that one could break one?s arms and legs before, and that then afterwards that could get better but I didn?t know that one could break one?s brain and that afterwards that got better too ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 743 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 747 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 18 February 1889

My dear Theo,
As long as my mind was so out of sorts it would have been fruitless to try and write to you to reply to your kind letter. Today I?ve just returned home for the time being, I hope for good. There are so many moments when I feel completely normal, and actually it would seem to me that, if what I have is only a sickness peculiar to this area, I should wait quietly here until it?s over. Even if it were to happen again (which, let?s say, won?t be the case).
But here is what I?m saying once and for all to you and to Mr. Rey. If sooner or later it were desirable that I should go to Aix, as has already been suggested ? I consent in advance and will submit to it ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 747 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 751 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 22 March 1889

My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter ? which I?ve just received. All the more so since in this case I prefer to be wrong than to be right: certainly we?re absolutely, absolutely in agreement as regards the reasoning you give in your letter. I also envisage the thing that way.
What?s new is that I think Mr Salles is trying to find me an apartment in another part of town. I approve of that, for in that way I wouldn?t be forced to move house immediately ? I would keep a pied-à-terre, and then I could certainly make a trip as far as Marseille or further to find better. Mr Salles is very kind and very loyal, and it?s a happy contrast with others here. Anyway. That?s all that?s new for the moment. If on your side you would write, try to influence them so that I have the right to go out into the town nevertheless ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 751 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 752 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 24 March 1889

My dear Theo,
I?m writing to tell you that I?ve seen Signac, which did me a lot of good. He was very nice and very straight and very simple when the difficulty arose of whether or not to force open the door closed by the police, who had demolished the lock. They began by not wanting to let us do it, and yet in the end we got in. As a keepsake I gave him a still life which had exasperated the good gendarmes of the town of Arles because it depicted two smoked herrings, which are called gendarmes, as you know. You know that I did this same still life two or three times before in Paris, and once exchanged it for a carpet back then. That?s enough to say what people meddle in and what idiots they are.
I find Signac very calm, whereas people say he?s so violent, he gives me the impression of someone who has his self-confidence and balance, that?s all. Rarely or never have I had a conversation with an Impressionist that was so free of disagreements or annoying shocks on either side ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 752 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 764 - To Willemien van Gogh. Arles, between about Sunday, 28 April and Thursday, 2 May 1889

My dear sister,
Your kind letter really touched me, especially since it tells me that you?ve returned to care for Mrs. du Quesne.
Certainly cancer is a terrible illness, as for me, I always shiver when I see a case ? and it isn?t rare in the south, although often it?s not the real incurable, mortal cancer
but cancerous abscesses from which one sometimes recovers. Whatever the case, you?re very brave, my sister, not to recoil before these Gethsemanes. And I feel less brave than you when I think of these things, feeling awkward, heavy and clumsy in them. We have, if my memory serves, a Dutch proverb to this effect: they aren?t the worst fruits that wasps gnaw at ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 764 to Willemien van Gogh


Letter 768 - To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 3 May 1889

My dear Theo,
Your kind letter did me good today, my word ? let?s go for St-Rémy then, but I tell you one more time, if after due consideration and consultation with the doctor it would be perhaps either necessary or simply useful and wise to enlist, let?s consider that with the same eye as the rest, and without prior prejudice against it. That?s all. For dismiss the idea of sacrifice in it ? I was writing to our sister the other day that throughout my life, or almost at least, I?ve sought something other than a martyr?s career, of which I?m not capable.
If I find annoyance or cause it, my word I remain stunned by it. Certainly I would gladly respect, I would admire martyrs &c., but you must know that in Bouvard et Pécuchet, for example, quite simply there is some other thing that adapts itself more to our little existences.
Anyway, I?m packing my trunk ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 768 to Theo van Gogh


Letter 772 - To Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Thursday, 9 May 1889

My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter. You?re quite right to say that Mr. Salles has been perfect in all of this, I?m much obliged to him.
I wanted to tell you that I think I?ve done well to come here, first, in seeing the reality of the life of the diverse mad or cracked people in this menagerie, I?m losing the vague dread, the fear of the thing. And little by little I can come to consider madness as being an illness like any other. Then the change of surroundings is doing me good, I imagine.
As far as I know the doctor here is inclined to consider what I?ve had as an attack of an epileptic nature. But I haven?t made any enquiries.
Have you by chance yet received the crate of paintings, I?m curious to know if they?ve suffered more, yes or no ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 772 to Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger


Letter 776 - To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Thursday, 23 May 1889

My dear Theo,
Your letter which I?ve just received gives me great pleasure. You tell me that J.H. Weissenbruch has two paintings in the exhibition - but I thought he was dead - am I mistaken? He certainly is one hell of an artist and a good man, with a big heart too.
What you say about the Berceuse gives me pleasure it?s very true that the common people, who buy themselves chromos and listen with sentimentality to barrel organs, are vaguely in the right and perhaps more sincere than certain men-about-town who go to the Salon.
Gauguin, if he?ll accept it, you shall give him a version of the Berceuse that wasn?t mounted on a stretching frame, and to Bernard too, as a token of friendship.
But if Gauguin wants sunflowers it?s only absolutely fair that he gives you something that you like as much in exchange.5 Gauguin himself above all liked the sunflowers later, when he had seen them for a long time.
You must know, too, that if you put them in this order ....

> Read more ... The whole letter 776 to Theo van Gogh







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