We are drawn to troubled artists (if not too precious); none comes more infamously troubled than Vincent van Gogh, he of the self-inflicted ear loss and of the self-inflicted fatal gunshot. The first occurred in sunny, paradisiacal Provence, the latter in the more subdued northern clime of Auvers-sur-Oise, about twenty miles north of Paris. Now just beyond the edge of Paris’s suburban sprawl, Auvers was at the end of the nineteenth century the rural village where Van Gogh went to receive further treatment for his depression, an ailment no doubt intensified by his continuing lack of success as an artist. It is astonishing to think that, as far as we know, he sold only one significant painting in his lifetime (The Red Vineyards near Arles of 1888), four months before his suicide.

Van Gogh worked at a Stakhanovite...


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