Van Gogh Cut Off his Left Ear Lobe – 12/23/1888

US History |

Dutch painter and Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh, who suffered from severe depression, took a knife and cut his lower lobe of his left ear off during his stay in Arles, France in 1888. An event, which he later documented in a painting he called, "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear." Van Gogh is acknowledged as one of the most influential artistic geniuses of Western art. All his masterpieces sold for record-breaking prices, although he was poor and was virtually unknown during his lifetime.

Born Vincent Willem van Gogh on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert in the southern Netherlands, he had a difficult personality disorder and was unsuccessful as an art dealer and later as a preacher among poor miners in Belgium. Suffering from depression, he decided to become an artist in 1880. In 1885, the painting titled "The Potato Eaters" which portrayed the experiences he had among peasants and poor miners became most famous of all his paintings as at the time.

When his younger brother Theo who was his lifelong friend, moved to Paris in 1886, Van Gogh followed and lived with him. Theo who was an art dealer helped his brother by providing financial and emotional support for him and later introduced him to some artists like Paul Gauguin, Camille Pisarro, and Georges Seurat among many others. Van Gogh's relationship with these painters especially Paul Gauguin and others as well influenced his own artistic style and made him starts using more colors.

Two years later, Van Gogh decided to rent an apartment in Arles, in the south of France in order to build his own art gallery and not to be a burden on his younger brother. Living in Arles, he began painting of bright scenes from the countryside and still life paintings notable among them was his famous "Sunflower Series". His friend Gauguin later came to Arles to stay with him and they both work together for two months. 

However, their friendship was cut short on December 23, when they both engaged in an intense argument and Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before turning it on himself and cutting his left ear lobe. After he had cut off his ear, it was reported that Van Gogh wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby hotel. Afterwards, he was hospitalized in Arles before he later checked himself into a rehab in Saint-Remy for a year. During his stay at the rehab, Von Gogh created some of best artworks notable among them was the Starry Night and Irises.

He later moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, in May 1890, where he continued suffering from mental illness, poverty and isolation. Two days later, Van Gogh shot himself and died. He was 37 at the time of his death.

Share On Facebook

Meg Wong


One of the hardest working individuals, Meg sets the bar high when it comes to work ethic and being a great teammate. She learned these values at a young age while she was the captain of her high school volleyball team. Leading her team to 3 state championships and coming away victorious twice. You can still see the leader in her through everything she does for us here.