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Art History 100 Was a Damned Lie: Van Gogh May Not Have Cut Off His Ear

Vincent_Van_Gogh People, please put down your life-sized cardboard cutouts of Robert Pattinson and stop chewing on your Nutrageous bars.  And please don't think about the Abortion Plane.  It's time on MamaPop to get serious.  Because the spectre of Vincent van Gogh has once more risen from the grave TO FEED UPON THE LIVING reputations of art historians.

According to The Guardian, which is a better newspaper than a manhole cover,* it seems that Vincent van Gogh may not have cut off his own ear, as legend has it.  It may in fact have been fellow painter and unhinged SOB Paul Gauguin.

Beyond his paintings of sunflowers and renditions of the gnarled night sky, Vincent van Gogh is probably best known for slicing off part of his ear on December 23, 1888, and presenting it as a gift to a local prostitute (who was not impressed) named Rachel. This act of self-mutilation has become an emblem of the romantic vision of the artist: tortured, unconventional, perhaps not sane.

Two German art historians are attempting to annex this bit of history with a different version of the tale.  In their version, van Gogh's inner torment is replaced by a bit of Sturm und Drang between himself and artist Paul Gauguin, who was known for his fencing skills and taste for absinthe.  Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans' forthcoming book, Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and The Pact of Silence, claims that Gauguin sliced off van Gogh's ear with a blade.  The two artists then decided to hush up the event in order to shield Gauguin from repercussions.  And what better way to cover up a maiming than to deliver the severed body part to a prostitute? I stayed up all last night and could not come up with a better solution.

Kaufmann and Gans' interpretation has not met with wholehearted acceptance.  Bloomberg art critic Martin Gayford points out that the many inconsistencies in Gauguin's recounting of the event (the two artists were sharing a house at the time) don't provide any solid evidence for the assault thesis.  Here is his judgment:

I don’t believe a word of it. This is not the first time it has been suggested that Gauguin might have been the aggressor in this odd art couple. The psychological motive for the suspicion is, I suspect, that many people don’t like Gauguin, and identify with the suffering Van Gogh.

Take that, art historians, with your ten years of exhaustive research.  You're just playing favourites.

* Hah hah, you just read a subordinate clause that made no sense at all.

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What's with the trying to make me think through use of subordinate clauses?

Snarky Amber

Your subordinate clause makes perfect sense. I had a Guardian standing in for a manhole outside my place for a while, and you wouldn't believe the lawsuits.



Have you seen that guy's art. Yes, it was amazing, beautiful but take a close look: ASSHOLE.

I don't need to know anything about Gauguin to know he was an asshole. All you have to do is look at his self-portraits. They radiate assholery.

Dang, I have the topic for a blog post! I won't say anymore. Just go to Paris, to whatever the hell that museum is called that has a bunch of early Gauguins and you will totally get what I'm talking about.

Also, go to Amsterdam and look at all the Van Goghs and you will be all: Van Gogh yay! Gauguin boo!

The art tells it all.

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