At long last, the mystery as to why Vincent Van Gogh severed his own ear may have been solved. According to a new theory by van Gogh scholar Martin Bailey, the distraught artist decided to spite his face after learning that his brother Theo was engaged. Bailey based his analysis on the presence of a letter in a painting van Gogh completed soon after the self-inflicted injury. Van Gogh depended on his younger sibling financially and emotionally and the news was more than the mentally unstable van Gogh could bear. The letter in question was sent from Theo in Paris in 1888, alerting his brother of his impending marriage. Earlier claims regarding van Gogh’s drastic Christmas 1888 mutilation blamed mental illness, lead paint fumes, and a failing friendship with Paul Gauguin. Though his psychological state was surely an issue, considering the artist shot himself two years later, Bailey’s in-depth look at van Gogh’s “Still Life: Drawing Board With Onions” shows it more despair than insanity that drove him to destruction.
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