Vincent: Exuberance and Despair

Main Article Content

Marlies ter borg

Abstract

Dedicated to Meerten ter Borg.


During Vincent van Gogh’s two months in Auvers he painted 74 masterpieces and then he shot himself. In this article, I investigate the possible connection between his ecstatic creativity and his tragic end. For this, I turn to Aristotle, who investigated the connection between warm melancholy and eminent creativity. In modern terms, it is the increased neurotransmission during a hypomanic episode that allows the magnifying of existing talent. This ‘bipolar melancholy’ can foster creativity but also lead to abrupt suicide. Attempts to find, in his letters and paintings, omens foretelling this tragedy fall short. He was exuberantly celebrating nature in his paintings creative until the last canvas. Then came a sudden slowing down of neurotransmission. His suicide was an escape from the looming depression he had experienced in Arles before deep depression made such an action impossible. The tragic fate of Vincent’s brother Theo, who succumbed to the other extreme, mania, suggests a genetic basis for this ‘ bipolar melancholy’. It was for Dr Gachet, expert in Melancholy, that Vincent moved to Auvers. He offered a broad and compassionate medical therapy, not excluding medication. Gachet’s understanding of the link between melancholy and genius was known to the van Gogh brothers. At the funeral Dr Gachet praised Vincent’s great achievements.


 

Article Details

How to Cite
BORG, Marlies ter. Vincent: Exuberance and Despair. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 10, oct. 2023. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <https://esmed.org/MRA/mra/article/view/4513>. Date accessed: 23 july 2024. doi: https://doi.org/10.18103/mra.v11i10.4513.
Section
Research Articles

References

1 Van Gogh’s final months, van gogh museum Amsterdam May – September 20023. Van gogh in auvers-sur-oise the final months,. musée d’orsay, Paris, oct 2023- feb 2024
2 Van Gogh V. The letters, Jansen L ed. https://vangoghletters.org/
3 Aristotle. On melancholy ter borg M ed. createspace 300 BC 2022
4 Kraepelin E. Die melancholie, ein zustandsbild des manisch-depressieven irresein. Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1907
5 Borg M. Aristotle and dsm on ‘bipolar’ melancholy: symptoms, medication, link to creativity. esmed 2021 Akiskal HS, Aksikal KJ. In search of Aristotle: temperament, human nature, melancholia, creativity and eminence. JAD. 2007 PiesR. The historical roots of the “bipolar spectrum”: did aristotle anticipate kraepelin’s concept of manic-depression JAD. 2007 Ghaemi SN. Perspective: Aristotle on manic-depressive illness and greatness. BD. 2020
6 Gachet PF. Études sur la mélancholie. Paris.1858
7 Ritti A. La folie à Double form. Paris.1860
8 F.K. Goodwin and Jamison KJ. ManicDepressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression OUP. 2007
9 Aristotle. Nichomachean ethics VII.xiv.6 300 BC Rackham trans. Loeb classic library HUP. 1975
10 Bernard E. Letter to Aurier G-A 31 July 1890
11 Jamison KJ. Touched with fire Simon& Schuster 1994
12 Jamison KJ. Night falls fast , Knopf, New York. 1999
13 Dyson CE. Notes on the crow family of birds rooks including the raven, the carrion crow and the rook, Read books. 2011
14 Dante A. Inferno iii 13-18 14th century Penguin. 2013
15 Borg M. Extase en wanhoop als bron van creativiteit. dossier van gogh candide. 201.0 p123
16 Dossier Theo van Gogh, Willem-Arntz kliniek, 1890, Utrecht
17 Pinel. Traité médico-philosophique sur l'aliénation mentale; ou la manie. 1801
18 Hulsker J. Van Gogh en zijn weg, uitgeverij areopagus. 1985 Borg M ter, Kasteleijn-Nolst Trenité D. The cultural context of diagnosis: The case of Vincent van Gogh, Epilepsy & Behavior. 2012
19 Pasternak. B in praise of his colleagues who had committed suicide. An essay in autobiography, trans. Harari, M. London New York 1959