Amsterdam’s renowned Van Gogh Museum has a new exhibition which focuses on the artist’s final 18 months before he shot himself in 1890, including the suspected gun he used to commit suicide.
Original letters and exceptional documents are being exhibited along with works of art by Van Gogh to seek answers to his mental illness, why he cut off his ear and what ultimately led to his death.
The “ear incident” with which Van Gogh’s illness manifested itself in December 1888, while he was living in the southern French town of Arles, is reconstructed in the exhibition through eyewitness testimony and letters.
An exceptional loan is the recently discovered letter from Félix Rey, the doctor who treated Van Gogh in the hospital. The letter contains drawings that show Van Gogh cut off his entire ear.
Also part of the exhibition are the police report and the petition organized by Van Gogh’s neighbors in Arles in 1889 to have him committed.
The revolver found in a field in Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh shot himself is also on show for the first time. That weapon is believed to be the one that he used to take his own life.
The exhibition “On the Verge of Insanity” shows that Van Gogh’s art should not be viewed as a product of his illness, but that it arose in spite of his condition. Paintings, drawings and documents are used to inform visitors about the key moments in Van Gogh’s medical history. They learn how the people around the painter responded to his illness, whether or not his mental condition influenced his work, and also about the various diagnoses suggested by doctors over the years.
The exhibition runs from July 15 until September 25, 2016, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.