Sunday, November 3, 2013

Van Gogh's Asylum

Cloister of the monastery
Vincent Van Gogh spent the last year of his life in St. Remy-de-Provence. Plagued by increasing mental instability, he voluntarily admitted himself here to the asylum at the Monastery St. Paul de Mausole on the outskirts of St. Remy-de-Provence. Being a Van Gogh fan, I took the opportunity to visit this place where some of his most important paintings were done.

Van Gogh's room
The monastery is really quite pretty. Part of it still functions as a treatment facility for mentally ill patients. There are several reproductions of Van Gogh paintings throughout the grounds indicating where he painted each scene. Climbing a long flight of stone steps, you reach Van Gogh's room containing a bed, a small writng desk, a trunk and a straight-backed chair. He painted several scenes from the window of his room. If you click on the link, you'll see one of those famous paintings, "The Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital"
This, however, is what it actually looks like. Van Gogh viewed the beautiful fields and gardens of the facility through a barred window. This, after all, was a locked facility for the insane. It's easy to forget the reality of his mental illness while enjoying his stunning paintings.
 Even the peaceful cloister courtyard was locked and barred to Vincent and other patients.

Two months after leaving St. Remy, Van Gogh, then in Auvers-sur-Oise, shot himself in the chest under suspicious circumstances...the gun was never found, and it isn't known for certain where the shooting occurred. The bullet was partially deflected by a rib without doing mortal damage to internal organs. Van Gogh was able to walk to obtain medical care. His beloved brother, Theo, rushed to his bedside. Van Gogh died on July 27, 1890 from an infection incurred by the gunshot wound.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like a peaceful place, but I wonder if the people incarcerated there found it such. A fascinating piece, thanks for posting it.