Saturday, April 18, 2020

Vincent's death

July, 1890.

My name is Vincent Van Gogh. Today I had the terrible misfortune of being shot. I am afraid it is the end for me. However, in one sense, I shouldn’t be afraid. Not only do I face my imminent death philosophically- all have died before me- I also feel that this life- as it is- is no longer of any use. There is no purpose for me anymore, in living.

Today I began painting as usual. What else is there for me to do? I am resigned to being a failed artist. I have no other certainty in my life. In fact, there is no certainty either in painting. But perhaps more certainly in this than for anything else. I am not a baker. I do not bake. I am not a tailor. I do not mend clothes. And I am far from a chef, or a postman or a carpenter.

As I wandered from Ravoux’s inn into the brilliant Auvers sun my thoughts began hopefully. I saw the town hall that I painted the other day. I passed my dear doctor’s garden. I went past the church which has frightened me all these days. I painted the windows purple last month. I began to see yellow everywhere. You see I had reached the wheatfields. It is not the first time I have tackled these wheatfields. I did the same thing in Arles. They provide comfort for me somehow.

 As I said before my day began hopefully. What is there not to be hopeful about a new baby grandson, young Vincent, named after me. I painted the almond tree near me, filled with blossom and an aching blue sky as a surprise for Theo and Jo’s baby boy. When I was in Paris in the spring I saw my pictures again. I mean the ones I painted in Arles. I turned away from the ones I did at the asylum. But certain pictures. Well they made me weep. The bedroom, my lovely sunflowers, the chair for Gauguin, some outdoor studies I think are pretty good. Mostly cypress trees and wheatfields. I wept because I saw my life flash before me. I know these are damn good. And together! What a miracle they made. They have been made straight from my heart. God knows how much they have cost me my life. But I would not change anything.

Here in Auvers I have been in a kind of frenzy of creating things. But it’s all different. If my genius is one day discovered they will say that ‘Vincent was mad. He spent some time in an asylum. He was terribly nervous and had dizzy spells. He even cut off a piece of his ear. No wonder he was committed and locked away.’ They will speak the truth. But there is another truth. And it will be seen in these pictures that I have done here in the North. Terribly desolate landscapes after landscapes. I have not had to go out of my way to create this feeling of loneliness and worthlessness that I have. It has all come to naught. I am not old in years but,’ a quoi bon?’

Today I ventured once again to these wheatfields of Auvers. I painted them the other day with a dark, stormy sky made mostly from Prussian blue. I made sure I had my little revolver with me. I use it to…. Oh well, it scarcely matters anymore. I soon found myself a position to stand with my easel. I always find this to be the easiest part. I simply setup and stare. Today as usual there were black crows. Not a large number but I know a lot about symbolism by now. I urgently needed these black crows in my painting. The lurid yellow. These black crows. Thinking of my brother and how he would shield from his little boy. I apply the paint thickly. I create more crows. And the sky…I can’t help myself. Thick streaks of blue, dark and without hope…

Some boys are in the distance. I have seen them before. Schoolboys like the ones in Arles. French schoolboys who are bored and want to know why a madman with paintbrushes and an easel is in the middle of this huge expanse of wheatfield. I can see them coming and I am weary today. I don’t care anymore. I do not want to justify myself to them. I try to fend them off, their laughs and their sneers. But I am overpowered and they take hold of my gun… and then I am lying down and dizzy again. I am afraid they will take my picture. I know I have been shot and sense the boys have run away. I feel overwhelmed and must get back to Ravoux but my stomach lurches in pain and I bleed like I did once by my ear.

My dear brother. Thanks for the 50-fr. note you sent me. There are many things I would like to write you about but I feel it would be useless. I have risked my life for my work as you know. We are living in a time of comparative crisis. When you leave Jo and the little one and come and see me you will see I am a changed man.

'In 2011, another theory about the artist’s death emerged, when two American researchers claimed that Van Gogh didn’t actually kill himself, but was instead the victim of an accident. They theorized that two young boys playing with a gun accidentally pressed the trigger and wounded Van Gogh by mistake.'

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