Vincent Van Gogh admitted himself into an asylum in 1889, after having break-down and mutilating his ear. His health was debilitated, stating in letters to his family that he was not eating much. In later correspondence with his family, the artist also wrote about the possibility of his crises being of epileptic nature. After about a year being treated in Saint-RÃ©my, Van Gogh moved to the quiet town of Auvers-sur-Oise.
Theo, the artist's brother, wished to help him and his new start on life by finding a good home and physician. Dr. Paul Gachet was recommended by the Impressionist and Pointillist Camille Pissarro, as the doctor was fascinated by modern artists and had a great affinity for working with them. At first, Van Gogh thought Dr. Gachet was as sick as he was, stating in a letter to his brother that he could not see how he could get help from someone who needs it as well. After getting to know each other, both became great friends, as the artist saw their physical and mental resemblance as something positive.
Van Gogh painted two portraits of his new friend, being that Dr. Paul Gachet was the first concluded. The artist studied the Romanticist work of Eugene Delacroix called Tasso in the Madhouse, originally from 1839. Although he did not have access to the original painting, Theo sent him a lithographic version. His wish was to translate the same melancholic atmosphere of Delacroix's work but in his perception of color and composition.
The painting Dr. Paul Gachet was done during the end of the artist's life, as the doctor took care of him during his last months. The brush strokes are very characteristic of Van Gogh's paintings. In swift, small strokes the artist was able to give movement to this still and silent moment. Dr. Gachet rests his head on his hand in a thoughtful pose, similar to the position of Delacroix's Tasso. His elbow rests on a table with red and green tablecloth, as well as his other hand. There are also two yellow books and a cup with some plants on the table. The Post-Impressionist used dark shades of blue and green to portray the doctor's jacket and the background, highlighted with strokes of light green. His expression looks troubled and his orange hair creates a complementary contrast with the overall blue of the painting.
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