“His unattractive appearance, his touchy character, his whims had alienated people. He had never analyzed his illness more clearly, endured men’s hostility with so much resignation, or spoken of his art with more common sense and lucidity, but now he was considered mad. He was sent back to the hospital. In Paris, Theo [Vincent’s brother and virtually sole source of support], who was going to be married, became alarmed and sent the painter Signac to see him. Signac spent the day of March 24th with Vincent, who kept on painting, reading, writing in spite of the crises. When he felt too ill, he asked to be interned at the asylum of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on May 3rd, 1889.

The Arles period was over, the most fruitful if not the most original of his career. During the year he remained at the asylum he produced another hundred and fifty pictures, and hundreds of drawings, working as one possessed, interrupted in his labor by three long crises, followed by painful prostrations. He painted Yellow Wheat, Starry Night,  Asylum Grounds in Autumn, a few portraits including that of the Chief Superintendent of the Asylum, delirious landscapes, surging mountains, whirling suns, cypresses and olive trees twisted by heat. In compensation, rhythm became more intense: whirling arabesques, dismantled forms, perspective fleeing toward the horizon in a desperate riot of lines and colours. What he represented then on his canvases he seems to have seen through a vertigo of the imagination. The fire lit by his hand was communicated to his brain. A feeling of failure overwhelmed him. Could his works be inferior to those of the masters he admired?”

Frank Elgar, Van Gogh

VAN GOGH, 1890


  1. Wow, Heather! When I brought up this post I saw the first painting and was thrilled! He is one of my favorites; I have his IRISES over my bed! I look at it each morning and night and love it as much today or even more perhaps, than when I first put it there. Thank you for a wonderful!! post.

    Hey, Michael, I see you caught that too!! Blessings on you both!

  2. whoops! that WOULD be a long time in the asylum…

  3. My favorite thing about Van Gogh's paintings are the vibrant hues and the movement. I guess being in asylum isn't so bad. He got a lot accomplished. Something to think about – except I don't think many have that amazing view!

  4. I love this post! I used to have a membership to the MoMA here in NYC and would wander by just to sit with "Starry Night" for awhile. Have you read his letters to his brother, Theo? There's a Penguin edition of them (and probably others); there are moments in his writing that are every bit as profound as his painting.

    And here, for good measure, is a link to "Vincent" by Don Maclean, my favorite hymn-that's-technically-not-a-hymn-(but-kind-of-really-is):

  5. Yes, Vincent's Letters to Theo are a classic…thanks, Steve, and for the youtube.

  6. Heather, thank you for this post. It encourages me. Our daughter is a 22 year old artist who is inspired by Van Gogh. A well meaning person recently told me that she fears our daughter is under the influence of evil because her work is so dark. This lady mentioned Van Gogh's influence as proof, yet when we went to a recent Van Gogh exhibit I experienced epiphanies of grace, I'm sure it was God's grace. Our daughter is on her 4th try for a scholarship big enough to get her to SAIC in Chicago – a school that has accepted her and awarded her scholarships three years in a row, but she's had to turn the schoarships down as they have not been enough. We are encouraging our daughter to keep on. Thanks for your little part in that.

    1. Oh wow, that's so sad the well-meaning person would say such a thing. Vincent's letters to his brother are so full of humility, hope, the loneliness of genius, a tormented heart full of love…please give your daughter my warmest regards and prayers that she continues with her art. We come to God through beauty and we so need artists of all stripes…bless both of you…


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