This Day in History

It was on Dec. 23, 1888, that Vincent van Gogh cut off part of his left ear. Contrary to popular belief, he only clipped off the bottom part of his ear, not the whole thing. Many blame the act on severe depression, which Van Gogh was suffering from while he was in Arles, France. Later, Van Gogh created a painting inspired by the incident. It was called Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

The Perfect Example of Starving Artist

In spite of this wild ear-cutting event, Van Gogh is still considered to be a genius painter. Nevertheless, he only sold a single painting while he was alive. Van Gogh is the perfect example of the starving artist.

Van Gogh was born in 1853. After deciding to be a painter in 1880, he relocated to Paris in 1886. Van Gogh's brother Theo lived in Paris and worked as an art dealer. Two years later, in 1888, Van Gogh moved to Arles, France, where he planned to start a colony for artists. There, he started painting country scenes and still-lifes. The painter Gauguin came to paint with Van Gogh for almost two months in Arles. Later, the two got into a fight and Van Gogh threatened to attack Gauguin with a knife. Instead, he used the knife on himself and cut off the bottom of his earlobe.

Was at Times Either Mad or Intensely Creative

Van Gogh spent the next year in a mental institution. It is said that he was mad at times and intensely creative at other times while staying in the mental institute. There, he produced some of his most famous works. Irises and Starry Night are some of his best paintings from that period.

In May 1890, Van Gogh relocated to Auvers-sur-Oise outside of Paris. His loneliness and despair did not let up. A couple of months later, he died after shooting himself at the age of 37.