梵高全傳(3/3)-暮年光陰:彩色的人生


Uploaded by freeworldhome on 11.11.2012

Transcript:
When I was a boy, my mother
took out a substricpition for me a magazine called Knowledge.
I don't know if you remember it.
Knowledge, it had full-page reproductions in it of famous paintings.
And the first one I remember cutting out and stuck to my wall
was Van Gogh's Night Cafe in the Place du Forum.
I suppose its sense of nocturnal urban alienation chimed with mine,
or something awful like that.
But take away a few thousand tourists,
drop the prices massively,
and it's unchanged.
Van Gogh wasn't the only troublemaker in Arles
in the summer of 1888.
The town was also home to a garrison of lurid French soldiers
called Zouaves.
These exotic Zouaves had started out as Algerian warriors.
The silly uniform was based on Algerian tribalwear.
Red fezzes, voluminous red pantaloons
and pretty embroidered waistcoats.
It's ridiculous gear for a soldier.
These Zouaves were stationed where the police station is now.
This was an important base for them
and where there are soldiers, there are women, drink and trouble.
People in Arles had an expression "Acting the Zouave"
it meant being flash, cocky, lippy.
Vincent's first friend and drinking buddy in Arles
was an officer in the Zouaves, Second Lieutenant Milliet.
This Milliet would go to the brothel before important army exams
to get into the right frame of mind.
Vincent was mightily impressed,
it's a talent he wished he had.
Little is ever said about Vincent's sexual instincts,
which were powerful and coarse.
His friend Gauguin, who soon joined him here,
with awful consequences,
is always being accused of beastly sexual behaviour.
But Vincent has somehow avoided this condemnation.
We think of him as an eccentric elder brother
turbulent perhaps, but essentially safe, and kindly.
Of course he was kind.
But there was a dangerous and sexually explosive side to him.
Unless we accept this, we can't begin to understand
what may have happened to him here
when Vincent's elastic snapped.
All the time here, he was a manic brothel-goer.
When the people of Arles chucked him out,
the petitioning women accused him of molesting them.
We refuse to believe it.
It doesn't fit our cosy fantasies about him.
In our imaginations, he's been neutered.
He's the artist as the friendly family pet.
There's a painting he did here that's so significant.
It's of a girl. She's 13 or 14.'
He called it The Mousme.
He'd been reading this atrocious book about Japan,
Madame Chrysantheme, by Pierre Loti.
A typically sexist outpouring of Western drivel
about Japanese women.
In this book, the Mousmes were 13-year-old girls
who would be temporarily married to visiting Westerners.
Vincent thrilled at this idea.
His painting seeks to evoke these illicit desires.
See what the Mousme is holding in her hand.
It's a sprig of oleander,
a local blossom that's poisonous to touch
and whose aroma can be fatal.
The stories among the Zouaves are of soldiers in Algeria
who'd built themselves temporary huts with roofs of oleander.
They'd all died in the night.
Vincent's Mousme, that sweet-looking girl,
is a dangerous temptation.
Why am I going on about this?
Because he had some sort of sexual crisis in Arles.
He wrote to Theo that he "Could no longer get it up", as he put it so blatantly.
He was as impotent as a character in a Guy de Maupassant story.
He was impotent because he drank too much.
But the effects of this impotence have been underrated,
yet it explains so much.
The explosive atmosphere of his night scenes,
the taunting and constant presence of happy couples in his pictures.
The crisis he had here had powerful sexual fuel thrown on to it.
The night had always fascinated him
and he'd wanted to paint it for a long time.
"The night," He wrote, "Is more coloured than the day."
He painted a magical view from just here,
his first Starry Night.
Painting at night is of course impossible.
So Vincent apparently, stuck some candles to the rim of his straw hat,
and they threw out just enough flicker for him to paint the stars.
If I had to choose one of his letters Vincent wrote from Arles, as the most revealing,
it would be the one he sent to Theo in July about stars.
He said "Looking up at the night sky from here and seeing the stars
was like opening up a strange map
and seeing all those black dots
representing faraway towns and places."
Just as you had to take a train to reach one of these faraway places,
so, to reach the stars, you had to die.
"It seems to me" He writes,
"That cholera and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion
just as steamboats, omnibuses and railways
are the terrestrial means."
"To die quietly of old age would be to go there... on foot."
This is the same letter in which he admits to being impotent.
I've been trying to think of an artist's house more famous than this,
And you know I can't.
This, the yellow house in Arles,
is surely the most celebrated artistic abode there's ever been.
It's the only house he called his own.
But that's not the chief reason for its notoriety.
It's notorious because, remarkably, Gauguin lived here too.
Look at it. It's tiny.
Yet, somehow, two huge artistic egos
squashed themselves into there simultaneously.
It was never going to work, was it?
Vincent, pathetically, had been trying to get someone - anyone -
to come and live with him in Arles.
He was lonely. He needed artistic company.
He tried Toulouse-Lautrec, who never wrote back.
But above all, he pestered Gauguin...
over and over and over again.
Gauguin came here chiefly for financial reasons.
He was blackmailed into it by Theo,
who offered to support him if only he'd join Vincent in Arles.
Gauguin complained bitterly that he was being asked to prostitute himself,
but he did it anyway.
To welcome his notoriously argumentative painter buddy,
Vincent decided to decorate the yellow house
with pictures of a flower he'd grown fond of, that was grown locally,
in bulk, for cooking oil.
Vincent's plan was to do a dozen of these flower paintings
and to hang them in the guest bedroom one next to the other
in home-made orange frames.
If someone's coming to stay with you,
it's normal to put a bunch of flowers in the room, welcome your guest.
What isn't so normal is to fill this room
with relentless and hallucinatory expanses of raw yellow.
The sunflowers are seen, rightly, I think, as disguised self-portraits.
Their famous behaviour, that magical way they turn to face the sun,
makes every sunflower a botanical Vincent.
Vincent had painted sunflowers back in Paris.
People grew them in Montmartre outside their cottages -
tall things, leaning over the fence like a nosy neighbour.
In Provence, however, the sunflowers come not in singles,
but in oceans.
Unbelievable expanses of the fiercest yellow.
It's still a sight that makes you dizzy.
He got up at dawn, came into these fields.
Collected 10, 15 flowers, took them home, put them in the vase
and painted them till they wilted.
All the time, he'd drink extra-strong coffee,
deliberately overstimulating himself,
getting himself on a caffeine high
so he could reach what he called "That high note of yellow".
Like a singer straining to reach that difficult top C.
When Gauguin walked into his new room in Arles,
his bedroom, and saw these things,
can you imagine how uncomfortable it must have made him?
It's like Mozart visiting Beethoven
and having to listen to the Fifth Symphony day and night.
If you'd been Gauguin, you'd also have done this:
taken them off the walls and put up something a tad more neutral.'
I'm sorry we can only show you this underwhelming model of it,
but the Allies bombed it successfully in 1944
and completely destroyed the yellow house in Arles.
Vincent's room is on the right.
God, it's so familiar from that cosy
and delightful painting of it that he did.
There's Gauguin's bedroom is on the left, full of sunflowers.
It's much smaller than Vincent's room on the right,
which Gauguin would've noticed.
Gauguin arrived on the 22nd of October 1888.
He only lived here with Vincent for 63 days.
They should never have squashed themselves into this tiny place.
But they did - and what wonders they produced.
Vincent's Chair... and Gauguin's Chair.
Both by Vincent.
The Arlesienne, by Gauguin.
The Postman's Wife, by Gauguin.
The Postman's Wife And The Postman's Baby, by Vincent.
And there's the baby again - again by Vincent.
Until recently, no-one knew Vincent had painted Gauguin.
Then this turned up - a sneak view from the back.
The single most prominent structure in Arles,
the one building you can't miss in the town,
is the bullring, the old Roman arena,
where Arles would stage its famous corridas.
Vicent likes bullfight, so does Gauguin
There's a Vincent painting of a crowd much like this -
come to see the bloodletting
It was done in December, probably at a pre-Christmas corrida,
to which Gauguin and Vincent came together.
The corrida wouldn't have been a welcome relief from the arguing and boozing.
Tensions in the yellow house were growing impossible.
If the matador has fought very well against the bull,
the custom here is to present the matador with the bull's ear.'
They cut it off and give it to him.
A gory celebration of the bull's defeat and the matador's victory.
On the night before Christmas Eve 1888,
Vincent approached Gauguin in the street
and threaten him with a razor
Gauguin, as he remembered it, stared him down,
and Vicent slacked off into the night.
It was only the next day, they found out he'd taken his shaving razor.
You can just about make it out in that charming interior his bedroom, by the washing bowl.
He grabbed his ear here
and starting from the top, in front of a mirror.
Slash down through the ear with the razor
Cutting most of it off and severing an artery, he bled profusely.
Then he wrapped the ear in a newspaper and took it to the brothel,
where he presented it to his favourite whore, Rachel.
Everyone screamed.
Fortunately, Roulin, the old postman, was at the brothel
and he took Vincent home.
The police were called, they arrived at the yellow house -
it was dripping with his blood.
He was nearly dead.
Who never know exactly what happend between Vicent and Gauguin
I'm pretty sure it was to do with women.
Gauguin was successful with them. Vincent wasn't.
In this public arena,
the defeated bull has its ear cut off.
In the private arena, the yellow house,
Vincent did his own ear cutting.
Gauguin had been threatening to leave for weeks.
The day after Vincent cut himself,
he left and never saw Vincent again.
This was the Arles hospital
to which Vincent was brought to heal up.
He couldn't remember anything that had happened to him.
It was, and is, a most mysterious collapse.
He was lucky, though, with his physician, Dr Rey -
a young and sympathetic inhabitant of Arles
though not, alas, a lover of modern art.
Vincent did a portrait of him, which the doctor's family used
to board up their chicken coup.
When he was well enough to paint again, they let him out,
and he did that poignant
and haunted self-portrait with the bandaged ear.
Theo had asked a local vicar to look after him.
There was another attack.
A raving Vincent thought the people of Arles
were trying to poison him.
They probably would have done if been given the chance.
In the street, kids would chuck things at him
cabbage stalks, rotten fruit.
This dishevelled figure with a fur hat and the bandage
howling back at his tormentors.
It was too much for the good people of Arles.
Thirty of them brought a petition here to the town hall,
insisting that the painter Van Gogh be put away.
He was a menace to society, a drunk and a molester of women.
That petition is still in the archives of Arles.
This is the petition the citizens handed in to their mayor
asking for Vincent to be put away somewhere.
"Monsieur le Maire... "Dear Mayor, we the undersigned
would like to point out to you that this Dutch painter - Vincent
has lost some of his mental faculties."
"And also drinks too much, and then he's an annoyance
to the women and the children."
And it's signed by all the people who got together and asked the mayor
to ensure that Vincent was put away.
Something had to be done before Vincent was lynched.
It was the Protestant vicar, Sales,
whom Theo had asked to keep an eye on Vincent,
who recommended this asylum at St Remy,
15 or so miles from Arles,
Saint-Paul-de-Mausole it was called.
It had a reputation for progressiveness,
and Vincent voluntarily checked himself in here
on the 8th of May 1889.
St Remy is renowned for two things:
one is that Nostradamus,
that celebrated predictor of human doom, was born here.
The other is that Vincent,
that unpredictable painter of human hope, was locked up here for a year.
He produced 150 paintings, but he only signed seven of them.
This was a period of transience, uncertainty and flux.
By an eerie coincidence,
the asylum in St Remy, like the one in Arles,
was a former monastery, 12th century Augustine,
with a cloister that's also reminiscent of Arles.
It's a space for walking round and round and round
in circles...thinking.
There's a powerful sense here of an enclosed society.
A private world within these walls.
These monkish atmospheres quickly infiltrated Vincent's art.
The first painting he did here
was those swirling irises
that now hang, somewhat perversely,
in the grand Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
What a clash of spirits that is between here and there!
Vincent's irises, humble wayside flowers
that come out all through the fields here at Easter time,
have long ago been roped into symbsolizing the end of the winter
in Provencale folklore, and resurrection.
All those blue irises in the painting and just one white one
standing out against the crowd.
I wonder who that represents.
This enclosed gardens of St Remy
became Vincent's private little world, his cosmos.
His art began paying such minuscule attention
to everything in here -
the butterflies, the beetles, the irises and the roses.
Once he found a huge moth
and had cruelly to kill it in order to paint it.
He said it was a death's-head moth,
but that's wishful thinking
on Vincent's part and bad lepidoptery.
It was an emperor moth.
They should change the label at Van Gogh museum immediately.
Whatever it was, it has about it that Japanese sense of the cosmos
being represented in every blade of grass,
every moth, every beetle.
In this enclosed garden, this monastic greenhouse,
the mysticism inside him was growing fierce again.
But you'll want to know about his so-called madness.
We're coming to that.
This is Vincent's cell. Or one just like it.
Many of the paintings he put to use here in St Remy
were views done just through there.
Though he never painted the bars.
When he looked out through the window, he saw a reaper down there
cutting through the corn in the field outside.
He painted reapers before,
but never with this much ecstatic, yellow energy.
He said the reaper was an image of death scything through the corn,
representing us, of course.
Yet the mood of the picture is so manically positive.
"Death with a smile on its face", he wrote.
What he couldn't escape of course, was his own sense of imprisonment.
This wall he looked down from his window,
repeated in picture after picture,
is a stubborn mantra.
It's only the wall of the garden,
but it seems so sternly to mark the limits of his freedom.
So what was wrong with him?
The short answer is that no one really knows.
If you squeezed 100 psychologists into this tiny cell
and asked them to diagnose Vincent,
you'd get 100 different answers.
The latest contribution to this popular psychiatric pastime
of analysing Vincent,
comes from the chief psychologist at St Remy,
Dr Jean-Marc Boulon.
I think the circumstances
of Van Gogh's hospitalisation are most unusual,
a turning point in his life.
All his life, he was rejected.
Rejected by the Church,
by women, rejected by the town of Arles.
You could say this attack during the period with Gauguin
resembled an epileptic fit, a temporal epilepsy.
The problem here is that this epileptic condition
was combined with another illness,
characterised by hostile mood swings,
extreme highs and lows.
This illness is what we call manic depression.
What's now known as bipolar disorder.
Did you get that? Manic depression with epilepsy thrown in?
At least the syphilis seems to have faded.
In Vincent's time, the chief cure here for all of them
- indeed for everything - was a long soak.
I have this image of Vincent in his grave laughing himself silly
at the confusion he's caused in the ranks of our brain specialists.
The very first diagnosis of his illness from the head doctor
here at St Remy, Dr Peyron,
was that Vincent was suffering from epilepsy pure and simple,
which of course meant there could be more attacks.
The good thing about being diagnosed as an epileptic
is that it... presupposes that
you'll have these long periods of rational and reasonable behaviour
in between the attacks.
So they let him out.
He started walking around the local countryside, exploring it.
This is one of the first places he came, this spooky ravine.
There've been quarries here apprently since Greek times.
They'd formed these...
spectacular... caverns.
He had a young assistant with him,
who was delegated to look after Vincent on these walks through the countryside.
Vincent found him a bit annoying.
One time they came back from painting the ravine,
they were going up the stairs in the asylum.
And Vincent just suddenly turned round
and kicked this man right in the stomach.
Why?
People said again it was a sign of madness.
But I can condone it under cover of madness.
He was getting his own back for being bossed around.
I think this is the ravine
where he had his first St Remy attacks.
He was painting the view through there
when it came on, a dizziness, the storm.
He managed to stumbled back to the asylum
when he tried to poison himself by eating his paints.
It all lasted about a week.
When he recovered, he described to Theo, with interesting shame,
his blurred memories of singing hymns
and ranting superstitiously about God.
He despised what he called -
"This absurd religious aspect of his mind storms."
And he blamed the gloomy surroundings of the asylum.
But the mind storms came from him, not from them.
The timing of Vincent's attacks is, I suggest, highly revealing.
The first one, back in Arles,
came when Gauguin threatened to leave the yellow house.
Then when Theo announced he was going to marry, Vincent had a relapse.
Here in St Remy, Theo's new wife, Jo, wrote to tell Vincent
that she was pregnant, and he had that attack by this ravine.
For most people, a baby and a family
triggers uncomplicated joy.
But for Vincent,
needy, selfish, aggressive, wilful Vincent,
who'd been chronically dependent on Theo for most of his adult life,
the new baby was a threat.
Look at these incidents together,
and you have a pattern.
Vincent's attacks came at moments of perceived rejection.
When he felt left out,
when the fear of being alone unbalanced him.
The landscape around the asylum was conspicuously different from Arles,
which is only such a little way away.
The cypresses, for instance,were bigger, more prominent.
They're supposed to be "The tree of death" of course,
and around here they grow them in the cemeteries.
But Vincent's cypresses aren't in the least melancholy or hushed.'
They're great, burly, ecstatic trees,
writhing up to the heavens.
Egyptian obelisks, he called them.
He found their struggle to reach the stars inspirational.
It was here that
Vincent painted his second great starry night.
That celestial orchestra of astral Catherine wheels
spinning through the heavens, playing Wagner in the sky.
One of the key constituents of the Vincent myth
is the belief that he never had any success in his life.
He only sold one picture,
he was always misunderstood et cetera.
It's true, he did only sell one picture.
It happened while he was here, at St Remy.
One of his Arles vineyards
was sold in Brussels for 400 francs.
But what was it doing in Brussels?
It was part of an important display of French avant-garde painting.
Theo had put his work into the Salon des Refuses.
Monet said they were the best things on the show.
A Dutch reviewer was ecstatic about how important Vincent was.
"Who will save modern art?" he asked.
"Vincent" was his reply.
Van Gogh wasn't discovered after he died,
he was discovered while he was here, locked up in St Remy.
But it gave him so little pleasure.
There's a Polish expression which I can't quite think of any exact translation.
It means "To go off something,
to develop a revulsion for it".
Whatever the right translation is, some think of this order
happened to Vincent's feelings about St Remy and the South of France.
Put most simply, he was homesick
for the warm and cosy fires
of his dark Dutch childhood,
the low black cottages, the hard-working country folk.
So he went back to visit them.
Not in the flesh, silly, but in his art.
Hitching a lift up north on other people's pictures.
His obsessive reworkings of other artists' pictures
aren't really copies.
He did them from black-and-white prints that Theo sent him.
They're ambitious reimaginings in colour,
starting from scratch almost,
and I think, they're some of his most exciting paintings.
But their psychological meaning, the darker stuff,
only becomes clearer when you consider the situation.
He was desperate to get away from St Remy.
Away from the asylum, away from that maddening sun,
away from the South of France.
Back among his potato eaters,
back in the gloom, back home, if you like,
in the northern stretches of his imagination.
And among these northern reworkings
is Vincent's version of an old print
by Gustave Dore he collected in London:
of the inmates at Newgate Prison
marching round in circles.
Many now consider Vincent's version of this London jail scene
to be the archetypical image of his imprisonment at St Remy.
We need also to consider this humble stuff - ivy.
From the time when he was a boy
running around those woods in Zundert,
ivy had always been Vincent's favourite plant,
his horticultural alter ego.
It stood for him:
the way it clings, its dependence on others.
Its fierce survival instincts
and its fondness for gloomy forest floors.
As a boy, he'd drawn it and collected it.
And now, in the scruffy gardens of St Remy,
he sought it out again
and painted it so very symbolically.'
The sunflower madness, you sense, was over.
Vincent had become an ivy man again.
I have a terrible craving,
he wrote to Theo,
to see my friends again
and the countryside of the north.
He bullied Theo into letting him abandon the asylum.
The doctor, signing him out,
wrote one word in the hospital log: "Cured".
It was wishful thinking.
Since no-one could be found to take him up to Paris,
he set off on his own on the overnight train.
He got there safely enough
and spent a couple of days with Theo, Theo's wife, Jo,
and their new baby, Vincent Willem,
named after him, of course.
But it was all too much.
He couldn't bear to be sepatated from his paintbox.
And so, on the 20th of May 1890,
Vincent's train pulled up here, at his final village.
Auvers, about 20 miles north of Paris,
was, and is, a pretty place that attracted artists.
The Impressionists came here,
Barbizon painters,
and now Vincent too.
It has been arranged that Vincent was to be looked after
by a doctor Paul Gachet,
an art loving medical man
and friend of the Impressionists
whose special interest was the creative mind.
Gachet lived here in what had been a girls boarding school.
Three days a week, he'd commute to Paris,
where he had a consulting rooms.
His diagnosis of Vincent was that there was nothing wrong with him,
all Vincent needed was a good rest.
Gachet was, I'm putting this kindly,
eccentric in his medical approach.
And his remedy for heart problems was to administer digitalis,
the essence of foxgloves,
from which they make absinthe around here.
Gachet himself was a suffer from what Winston Churchill used to call
"That black dog" - depression.
If I were ill in any serious way, I wouldn't have gone near this man.
A scared Vincent wrote back to Theo
"Gachet is sicker than I am."'
This is Dr Gachet's salon.
Gachet was a widower out here with two children:
a boy who was 17, Paul,
and a daughter who was 21, Marguerite.
Apparently Vincent could have stayed in the house
there was room.
But Dr.Gachet was nervous of
having his beautiful daughter so close to Vincent.
Nevertheless, Vincent painted her.
He did a lovely picture of her
in the garden just there,
with a view of Auvers behind her.
And, most famously, he painted her playing the piano.
This piano.
He used one of those canvases
that were his Auvers speciality,
the very long, low ones.
Normally, he used them for his landscapes.
and painted corn fields on those.
But for Marguerite at the piano
he also used one and tipped it up,
so that she is seen playing the piano longways.
One of the most famous pictures that Vincent painted in Auvers
is of the church.
which, until you get here, it's not obvious,
it's actually on top of a hill,
overlooking the village.
And it's one of his most detailed pictures.
That hasn't really changed at all from the time he was here.
And he must've sat there all day looking at everything carefully.
For example, the tracery around the windows is exactly as it on the church.
But there's a few bits he tried to enjoy,
well, it's obviously really just skipped over the details.
you couldn't to bother him to do them properly.
For example, these corbels above the window.
In the real church, there's a row of lovely gargoyles,
which he's flattened off, squared off.
He couldn't be bothered to do them.
But the greatest thing he did, I think,
is to take this simple, relatively small parish church,
and turn it in his painting into this great, soaring cathedral.
You'd never know from looking at Vincent's picture
is how small this place is.
Auver has an interesting topography which is worth understanding
to get a sense of what Vincent painted here.
It's a long, thin village
that basically follows the River Oise along its valley
and then climbs up the valleys sides
in these higgledy-piggledy clusters of cottages
built steeply up the hill until you get to the top,
where, if you're a Van Gogh admirer,
a most thrilling sight awaits you.
It's a huge, flat, stretching plateau,
an elevated plain, a mini-America almost,
of long, low, endless wheat fields.
When you come up the hill from the village past the church
and into these giant fields,
there's an immediate change of scale,
from higgledy-piggledy to vast.
From those cramped village streets below to these daunting open spaces.
Ah. It makes you want to breathe.
Thus Vincent's art from Auvers
also alternates energetically between the claustrophobic cottages
below and those great plains above.
You know, Vincent was only in Auvers for 69 days.
The final 69 days of his life.
But in those 69 days, he managed to produce 80 paintings
and the usual cluster of watercolours, gouaches, drawings.
Most of the time, he was clearly enjoying himself
and working like a man possessed.
But just as it was all going so well, disaster struck.
For you and me, I don't think it would have been a disaster.
All that happened was Theo and his wife Jo
decided to take their new baby to Holland for the summer
instead of coming here to Auvers
and visiting Vincent, as Vincent had hoped.
A minor disappointment, you'd have thought,
but for Vincent, it added up to a major betrayal.
He flipped. His letters to Theo got nasty,
he picked a fight with Gachet and stopped going round there.
I'm no psychiatrist, but even I can see
that here was a man deliberately engineering his own isolation
in order to prove that no-one wanted him.
Back here at his lodgings, his landlord Ravoux
didn't notice any obvious change in his wayward autistic lodger.
Vincent got up at five in the morning, as he always did,
went out to paint the fields all day as he always did,
came back nightful,
ate his supper and was in bed by nine, as he always was.
On July 27th 1890,
Vincent wolfed down his lunch more quickly than usual
and set off up here, at the back of the village.
This is the wall that runs behind the village chateau.
You can see that in a couple of his paintings.
Up here, you're pretty much hidden from the rest of the village.
No-one can see what you're doing.
Vincent took out a revolver he'd got his hands on somewhere.
The locals tried to cover themselves, I think.
said later, it was the gun he used for frightening the crows.
But why would Vincent want to frighten the crows?
He shot himself around here, aiming vaguely at his heart.
But it wasn't much of a gun by all that counts,
and the bullet never made it out the other side.
Vincent fainted, but he wasn't dead.
A few hours later, he stumbled back down the hill
and saying nothing to anybody,
made his way to his bed at the Auberge Ravoux.
The innkeeper followed him up to his room, this room.
He sent for the village doctor, a Dr Mazery.
Vincent insisted that Gachet come as well.
So these two profoundly inappropriate sawbones -
a village doctor who specialised in midwifery and Gachet,
who cured his patients by giving them foxgloves for their heart disease,
inspected Vincent together,
and together agreed that the best thing to do was to leave him as he was.
Had it happened to him today,
he would have been operated on immediately and probably saved.
It wasn't until the next day, that Theo was notified.
He rushed on to the first train and got here to find Vincent
sitting up in bed at first puffing away at his pipe.
Theo cradled him in his arms.
As the hours ticked by,
he could feel Vincent slipping away.
At 1:30 in the morning, on Tuesday,
the 29th of July, 1890,
still in Theos arms, Vincent went.
Gachet did a drawing of him on his deathbed
on a paper napkin from the Auberge Ravoux.
Vincent was 37.
He'd been an artist for just nine years.
Because Vincent was a suicide,
the Catholic priest refused to allow his hearse to be used
or for a church service to be held.
The man who made Vincents stretchers for him built the coffin.
The tragedy doesn't stop there, either.
Just six months after Vincent died,
Theo, of all people, followed him into the grave.
He'd been behaving strangely for months:
violent outbursts, rants, collapses.
At the time, this unexpected descent into madness
was blamed on a mysterious liver condition.
It was only much, much later
that the Van Gogh family finally admitted that it was syphilis.
It was Theos wife, Jo,
who planted this symbolic ivy on their graves.
This Jo was to do so much for Vincent.
She became a great promoter of his work
and eventually made him famous.
But it's for planting this ivy here that I want to thank her now.
It came from Dr Gachets garden.
She said it was meant to symbolise Vincent and Theo
clinging together even in death.
But it does more than that, I think.
On this grave, that ivy
is a touching monument to the real Vincent.
This ivy - not those infernally popular sunflowers -
was his favourite plant.
It clings, it needs the damp,
and, above all, it's of the north.
Vincent was that too.
Had he lived longer, I'm certain he would've gone back to Holland
and returned to the dark Dutch taproot of his childhood.
Auvers wasn't meant to be his last stop.
It was meant to be a staging post on Vincents journey back home. �