About van Gogh Experts

Later Years

The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890

The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890

Van Gogh’s final years, during which time his mental health deteriorated markedly, were spent in France. In 1888 he moved to Arles, in southern France, partly out of a desire to realize his earlier goal of being a peasant painter. He returned to many of the motifs of peasant life that he had worked on when he was living in the Netherlands: thatched roof cottages, fishing boats, a sower in a field. Many of his compositions from this period also reflect his fascination with the area’s landscape and light, and feature some of his most intense colors.

Van Gogh hoped to found an artists’ community in Arles, and eventually he succeeded in convincing Gauguin to live and work with him in the Yellow House. The arrangement was contentious, however, and ultimately culminated in Gauguin leaving after only a couple months, by Christmas of 1888. The events precipitating Gauguin’s departure included the famous incident of van Gogh cutting off his left ear and giving it to a prostitute, after which he spent several days in the hospital. He returned to the Yellow House following his hospital stay but was readmitted in February 1889 for several bouts of hallucinations and delusions.

In May of 1889 the artist committed himself to the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy, due to his worsening mental health.

Theo managed to arranged for two cells in the hospital, so that van Gogh would be able to use one as his studio. During his stay, van Gogh continued to paint and draw when he felt well enough to do so. The hospital and gardens often provided subject matter, as did his own recollections. One of his most famous paintings—Starry Night—dates from this period.

Van Gogh left the Saint-Rémy clinic in May of 1890. He moved to Auvers-sur-Oise in order to be closer to his brother Theo and the physician Dr Paul Gachet, who was treating van Gogh. This period saw the beginnings of critical success for van Gogh, including the sale of the painting Red Vineyard to the painter and collector Anna Boch. Unfortunately his mental health continued to worsen. On July 27, he apparently shot himself in the chest with a revolver. The wound was not immediately fatal, and van Gogh was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, where he had been staying. When Theo heard of the shooting he rushed to be at his brother’s side. In the early morning hours of July 29, van Gogh died from his wound. According to Theo, his final words were, “The sadness will last forever.”

Bedroom in Arles, 1889

Bedroom in Arles, 1889

Starry Night, 1889

Starry Night, 1889