Thursday, July 29, 2010

Van Gogh

On this day in 1890 Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide using a gun he had previously brandished at the doctor treating his increasingly difficult mental state - Paul Ferdinand Gachet. Gachet had encouraged Van Gogh to create an etching and allowed him to use his personal press (Gachet was a keen artist also). It remained Van Gogh's only etching and now resides in the Medicine Man Gallery at the Wellcome Collection.

This poignant work silently records the relationship between not only doctor and patient but also two individuals who used art as both a means of expression and a therapy. The modestly sized etching is accompanied by three audio commentaries. One of these proposes that Van Gogh's condition was typical of what we now call Bipolar Disorder. For a full account of Captain Johnston-Saint (Sir Henry Wellcome's agent) and the acquisition of this unique creation see the article by Gertude Prescott in Medical History

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