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The Comfort In Art: Vincent Van Gogh’s Desire For Self-Soothing


Vincent Van Gogh was a tortured man. He was angry, paranoid and threw fits. He couldn’t hold a job. He was a loner and had no friends. He was alienated from his family, and ended up in the insane asylum. In a psychotic rage, he cut off half his ear.

It is now believed that he suffered from epilepsy, which brought on many of his emotional difficulties.

His relationship with his father was a nightmare. At one point he tried to emulate him and become a minister, like he was. That failed. His father died of a stroke, and the family blamed Vincent for it. Their constant arguing killed him, said his mother.

Vincent never got over it. He felt guilty until the day he died. He was only 37 years old.

“60 Minutes” just ran a portrait of Van Gogh in which they dispute the long standing theory that he committed suicide. Instead, they say he was killed by a couple of kids in the French village where he lived; kids who relentlessly teased and haunted him.

They fumbled around with a gun and shot the artist, who then made it look like he turned the weapon against himself. He wanted to die.

But Vincent Van Gogh wasn’t just a haunted man. He was also a creative genius. Everybody knows his sunflowers, his paintings of the starry night, wheat fields and cypresses. His paint stroke has the vitality and power of an artiste extraordinaire.

Genius and madness can reside in the same mind. We have seen it many times.

But we often forget just how soothing and inspiring art can be. As one expert in the 60 Minutes segment said so fittingly about the Dutch painter: “Art, like religion, was there to console those who were heartbroken by life. And that was first and foremost him. He was first in line.”

Van Gogh wanted to soothe himself and ended up soothing us, the people who admire his art.

As the commentator in the show announced: “He provided comfort for humanity.”

photo credit: amsfrank

The Comfort In Art: Vincent Van Gogh’s Desire For Self-Soothing

Gerti Schoen, MA, LP

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APA Reference
Schoen, G. (2012). The Comfort In Art: Vincent Van Gogh’s Desire For Self-Soothing. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/gentle-self/2012/08/the-comfort-that-is-in-art/


Last updated: 2 Aug 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Aug 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.