A major exhibition of the works of Vincent van Gogh has opened at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
The show entitled ‘The Man Driven to Suicide by Society’ is based on the writing of French playwright and theatre director Antonin Artaud, who wrote about Van Gogh ahead of the painter’s Paris show in 1947.
Isabelle Cahn from the Musee d’Orsay gave us some background: “Artaud’s text is very interesting since it goes against all the perceived ideas on Van Gogh, and above all against a theory which appeared at the time of the diagnosis of Van Gogh. Artaud wrote Van Gogh was not mad. He was driven to suicidal despair by a society that rejected his work.”
Artaud criticised Dr Paul Gachet, a psychiatrist who treated the painter. Rather than helping Vincent, Artaud claims Gachet pushed him over the edge.
The Musee d’Orsay’s Isabelle Cahn said: “I think the emotions we carry with us are human emotions, not anxiety, it is artists that carry anxiety, the anxiety of the time, and we can see in them contemporary anxieties, but they show us how we can go beyond them in art and I think it can be a great help. It does not get rid of questions, which are human, or our aspirations, we just have to show them in the most beautiful way possible.”
Van Gogh’s torment is visible throughout the show, for example in the tree trunks and quivering vegetation in the 1889 piece ‘The Garden of the St Paul Hospital’.