The Madness of Painters

Vincent van Gogh will be getting the Book of the Week treatment next week on Radio 4. The book is unimaginatively called Van Gogh’s Ear. Poor Vincent, all those sunflowers and wheat fields stem into insignificance next to his self-mutilation that fascinates us to this day. Not even the subsequent self-portrait with bandaged ear could get him noticed in the art world. Only in death would VVG  become famous.

My first impression of this painter was in a negative light and my post-impressions haven’t changed. Canvases smudged with more paint than a courtesan’s make-up. Unrealistic facial portraits and inaccuracies in anatomy. Then there’s all those flowers. He should have cut them up.

I’ve avoided the temptation to put this painter in the Overrated series because all painters are off their head. Hours puzzling over light and shade. Mixing oils and cleaning brushes. All this painstaking preparation when the landscape or sitter could be captured with the click of a camera.

My ears have heard many pronunciations of the painter’s last name. Obviously, I use the popular Goff but other versions include Go and the guttural Hock. Maybe, it’s Hoff or Ho, who knows?

Lastly, it was in 1888 that Vincent took the razor to his ear. What a terrible year was MDCCCLXXXVIII. Jack the Ripper was serial killing in Whitechapel and the seed was planted that birthed an Austrian monster.