After the altercation with Gauguin, Van Gogh returned to his room, where he was assaulted by voices and severed his left ear with a razor (either wholly or in part; accounts differ),[note 9] causing severe bleeding.[142] He bandaged the wound, wrapped the ear in paper, and delivered the package to a woman at a brothel Van Gogh and Gauguin both frequented.[142] Van Gogh was found unconscious the next morning by a policeman and taken to hospital,[145][146] where Félix Rey, a young doctor still in training, treated him. The ear was delivered to the hospital, but Rey did not attempt to reattach it as too much time had passed.[140]
In mid-1889, and at his sister Wil's request, Van Gogh painted several smaller versions of Wheat Field with Cypresses.[249] The works are characterised by swirls and densely painted impasto, and include The Starry Night, in which cypresses dominate the foreground.[246] In addition to this, other notable works on cypresses include Cypresses (1889), Cypresses with Two Figures (1889–90), and Road with Cypress and Star (1890).[250]
Theo kept all of Vincent's letters to him;[10] Vincent kept few of the letters he received. After both had died, Theo's widow Johanna arranged for the publication of some of their letters. A few appeared in 1906 and 1913; the majority were published in 1914.[11][12] Vincent's letters are eloquent and expressive and have been described as having a "diary-like intimacy",[8] and read in parts like autobiography.[8] The translator Arnold Pomerans wrote that their publication adds a "fresh dimension to the understanding of Van Gogh's artistic achievement, an understanding granted us by virtually no other painter".[13]
In these series, Van Gogh was not preoccupied by his usual interest in filling his paintings with subjectivity and emotion; rather the two series are intended to display his technical skill and working methods to Gauguin,[134] who was about to visit. The 1888 paintings were created during a rare period of optimism for the artist. Vincent wrote to Theo in August 1888, "I'm painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when it's a question of painting large sunflowers ... If I carry out this plan there'll be a dozen or so panels. The whole thing will therefore be a symphony in blue and yellow. I work on it all these mornings, from sunrise. Because the flowers wilt quickly and it's a matter of doing the whole thing in one go."[243]
I asked Fred Astaire once when he was about my age if he still danced and he said 'Yes, but it hurts now.' That's exactly it. I can still dance too but it hurts now! I've always kept moving. I was at the gym at six this morning. Of course marrying a beautiful young woman has been a big help. There are so many years between us and we don't feel it. I'm emotionally immature and she's very wise for her age so we kind of meet in the middle.
By this time van Gogh was ready for such lessons, and the changes that his painting underwent in Paris between the spring of 1886 and February 1888 led to the creation of his personal idiom and style of brushwork. His palette at last became colourful, his vision less traditional, and his tonalities lighter, as may be seen in his first paintings of Montmartre. By the summer of 1887 he was painting in pure colours and using broken brushwork that is at times pointillistic. Finally, by the beginning of 1888, van Gogh’s Post-Impressionist style had crystallized, resulting in such masterpieces as Portrait of Père Tanguy and Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel, as well as in some landscapes of the Parisian suburbs.
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