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Lesson Plans

Re: Van Gogh's ear

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sun, 04 Oct 1998 13:30:06 -0500

Dear Robert,
I'm glad you finally did reply. I was the one who started the thread. But the
"question" was haunting me ever since I read a conflicting ear story in a
published book. So if people are bold enough to publish it in books , I see no
problem in questioning the information we are giving children. I felt secure
enough to ask my fellow art colleagues without the fear of being ridiculed for
what some might think a silly question. Apparently there are many views of the
story, as you suggest and according to the many replies I received. If anyone
is interested I can consolidate the replies and show all the many views.

Robert Alexander Fromme wrote:

> At 08:55 AM 10/3/98 -0400, San D wrote:
> >I understood the story to be that he cut off his ear and sent it to the
> >prostitute that rejected him. He was obsessed with her (Van
> >Gogh-obsessed? go figure?), and she didn't want have anything to do with
> >him, so he wanted her to have a part of him, both literally and
> >figuratively.
> Well, I have been trying to hold my tongue since this thread started but,
> alas, I have lost the argument with myself, so against my better judgment, a
> few comments follow.......
> The history or art is littered with so many myths and stories which may (or
> may not) have elements of truth to them, and the ear of Van Gogh is
> certainly one good example. Unfortunately, none of us will know for sure why
> or how it was removed. One will question his mental state at the time that
> the deed was done and he seems to have been alone at the time. Art
> historians, art marketers and writers have, on occasion, been known to claim
> creative licence when facts and records can not be located to support their
> stories. Such may well have been the case of Van Gogh. Certainly the "wild
> and crazy" picture they have painted of this man has been profitable to
> their interests.
> On the other hand......
> I can remember a lecture by one of my art history instructors at Kansas
> State back in the early 70s where the professor suggested that the whole
> thing with Van Gogh's ear had gotten out of hand. Her position was that the
> artist exhibited all of the symptoms of epilepsy in an age when that illness
> was not understood by the public or by medical professionals. Public
> condemnation and the suffering of frequent attacks of motor, sensory, or
> psychic malfunction with or without unconsciousness or convulsive movements
> would have been enough to drive one insane and this may well have been the
> situation for Van Gogh. The professor pointed out that the ear may have
> been severed by accident during a seizure, kitchen knife in hand, while
> preparing a meal. Of course this scenario doesn't play as well as a madman
> whacking it off to send it to the " prostitute that rejected him".
> Unfortunately, aside from his works and letters to Theo, I have seen little
> to substantiate any of the stories.
> Bob