What Made van Gogh Crazy?

“Painted with Words, Vincent van Gogh’s Letters to Emile Bernard” is a small exhibit at The Morgan Library and Museum, but large enough to give creative insight into the life of the artist most famously known for cutting off his left ear during in an act of “craziness,” and the painting Starry Night.

The letters are written between 1887 and 1889 and reveal van Gogh’s thoughts on life, art and religion during that time and how he mentored Bernard during his early stages.  Interestingly, what was left out of these letters was the clear cut emotional turmoil van Gogh was feeling during these years.

What made VvG so insane? Obviously he was mentally ill and regardless whether this was caused because of neurological issues such as epilepsy or because he swallowed too much paint, I’d LOVE to know his deepest, darkest secrets during these two pivotal years. Remember, he was in an asylum during this time and ultimately shot himself, so clearly he didn’t work through his problems so successfully.

What made Vincent van Gogh such a lunatic? No money? Try working out of a studio in Tribeca that’s 350 Square Feet.  Too much air pollution from paint? Try inhaling bus fumes and asbestos from pipe explosions. Too much pressure to be famous? Try making it for one minute on Broadway, in Hollywood or in the artistic realm today.

Don’t get me wrong, the man more or less invented Impressionist art, but I want answers. The letters were beautifully written and the sketches that paralleled them were divine, but I need more depiction as to what was going on in the inside of his head. What caused the screws to come loose?

These 20 letters don’t tell us about the mental man, but show a different side of him. The letters depict a more emotional painter who was a caregiver and a mentor to his students, and avoids talking about his bipolar, sick individual persona.

Let the man be who he wanted to be at whatever point in time he’s painting. This is how Vincent van Gogh became such an individual in his works. 

I’m telling you after reading these letters and getting a better understanding of VvG’s life, you’re going to need a minute to sit and debrief. At what point in his life was he healthy and during that time what type of art was he focusing on? It gets confusing to keep it all straight.

Just enjoy Vincent van Gogh for being the most creative artist of his time and enjoy it over the extraordinary lobster salad at the Morgan Dining Room. Just make a reservation ahead of time.

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