Vincent Willem Van Gogh, a famous Dutch artist who suffered from extreme depression, ended up cutting his ear on 23 December 1888 in Arles, France due to a mental breakdown.
He then proceeded to document this whole event in one of his famous paintings known by the name of “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”.
In this era, Van Gogh is considered no more than a genius of the art verse, whose paintings are sold for record-breaking prices. But sadly, in his own time, he was nothing more than a starving artist who sold only one painting in his lifetime.
Why Did Van Gogh Cut His Ear?
Van Gogh was very close to his younger brother named Theo, so in 1886, he decided to move in with him in Paris. Lucky for Van Gogh, Theo was an art dealer and he supported him in every financial and industrial way he could. Theo introduced Van Gogh to numerous famous artists including Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, and Camille Pissarro. These encounters were a huge reason why Van Gogh was influenced to lighten up his artistic style and make his artwork more colorful.
In 1888, Van Gogh decided to lessen his brother’s burden and rented a house in Arles, located in the South of France where he painted some of his iconic artworks including “The Sunflower Series”, which he painted still lives from the countryside, which also included some vivid scenes.
Gauguin, a famous French artist moved in with Van Gogh in Arles for working purposes. Both of them lived together for somewhere around 2 months and the downfall began on 23rd December when Van Gogh was suffering from a fit of dementia and he threatened to hurt Gauguin with a knife and then turned it to himself and chopped off his entire ear lobe/ear.
Who Did Van Gogh Give His Ear To?
After the incident, he wrapped up his ear and went to a nearby brothel where he allegedly gave it to a prostitute. Followed by which, Van Gogh was reportedly hospitalized and he later checked himself in a mental hospital located in Saint-Remy for a whole year, where he experienced different periods of madness crossed by intense creativity, which was the time when he painted some of his most famous masterpieces including Iris, and Starry Night.
Later in 1890, Van Gogh moved to a place near Paris known by the name of Auvers-Sur-Oise where he got nothing but worse. He was constantly plagued by loneliness, depression, and despair. According to reports, he ended up shooting himself and died two days later on 27th July, 1890 at the age of 37.
There are many other theories that you can find on the internet, some of which state that his ear was given to a cleaner and not a prostitute, and others state that he gave it to a random lady outside the brothel and told her to “keep this object carefully”.
What exactly happened? No one is sure. There have been many research studies and theories that all result in different outcomes but no one is sure of the exact scenario.