without finishing, quit an apprenticeship and was a
disaster as an itinerant preacher. He then became a painter and — as it
seemed to most of those who knew him — was as unsuccessful at this as he
had been at everything else, depending on his brother Theo who was an art
dealer for money and becoming an out-of-control alcoholic, who spent his
evenings in whorehouses. One episode of apparent madness led to his
commitment. When he was discharged he shot himself: he died at the age of
thirty-seven, a passionate and dreamy man.
Other painters admired him.
thought Van Gogh's pictures were the best at the March 1890 "Salon des
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
challenged an acquaintance to a duel for mocking
was never able to make a living as a painter. The only picture he is known
to have sold during his lifetime was Red Vineyard
One episode has come to symbolise
life lived between hallucination and creative frenzy. In 1888 he moved
from Paris to Aries in Provence, attracted by the southern light and the
intense colours. There he shared a little yellow house with
who was already a successful painter. But
soon found that he liked neither Aries nor
On December 23 they quarrelled worse than ever:
felt threatened and left to spend the night at an inn. When he returned
the following morning, there was a throng of spectators in front of the
house, which was spattered with blood.
was arrested. It turned out that
had returned at night alone and had cut off his own ear lobe with a razor.
Then he had gone to a brothel, where he had presented the ear lobe,
wrapped in newspaper, to a prostitute named Rachel: "Truly I say unto you,
you will think of me."
a staunch supporter of
admitted publicly that his friend was mad.
was sent to an asylum, where he painted Self-Portrait with Bandaged
Ear which reveals the state he was in. He, who had always said he
wanted to bring the sun to suffering people by painting in brilliant
colours, appears as a shadow of what he had once been. When
had said: "This man will either go mad or he'll leave all the rest of us
far behind." Rather than "either-or", he should have said "bothand".