Fact of the day: 27th July

On this day in 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself and died two days later.

I genuinely thought Von Gogh was hundreds of years ago so this was a bit of a surprise for me!

On 22 February 1890, Van Gogh suffered a new crisis that was “the starting point for one of the saddest episodes in a life already rife with sad events.”

From February until the end of April he was unable to bring himself to write, though he did continue to draw and paint, which follows a pattern begun the previous May, in 1889.

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For a year he “had fits of despair and hallucination during which he could not work, and in between them, long clear months in which he could and did, punctuated by extreme visionary ecstasy.”

On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver. There were no witnesses and the location where he shot himself is unclear.

Ingo Walther writes that “Some think Van Gogh shot himself in the wheat field that had engaged his attention as an artist of late; others think he did it at a barn near the inn.”

Biographer David Sweetman writes that the bullet was deflected by a rib bone and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs—probably stopped by his spine.

He was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, and there was attended by two physicians; however, without a surgeon present the bullet could not be removed.

After tending to him as best they could, the two physicians left Van Gogh alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning (Monday), Theo rushed to be with Van Gogh as soon as he was notified, and found him in surprisingly good shape, but within hours Van Gogh began to fail due to an untreated infection caused by the wound.

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Van Gogh died in the evening, 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself. According to Theo, his brother’s last words were: “The sadness will last forever.”

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