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Why did Vincent van Gogh injure himself? According to art historian Martin Bailey, the answer may have been found.

On December 23, 1888, the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh surprised everyone by cutting off part of his left ear. The reason behind this was long a mystery, although a confrontation with Paul Gauguin was previously considered a possible cause. However, Bailey suggests that Vincent may have been devastated by the news of his brother Theo’s engagement.

What was the reason for Van Gogh’s drastic action?



The relationship between Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo was close. Vincent was also financially dependent on his brother. From studying the letters from the Van Gogh family, Martin Bailey deduces that Vincent may have heard about Theo’s engagement on December 23, 1888. The Telegraph reports Bailey’s suggestion that “Vincent was afraid of ‘losing’ Theo, and feared his brother would stop providing the financial support that made his art career possible.”

Although Vincent was struggling with several problems at the time, Bailey suggests that news of Theo’s engagement may have contributed to his radical action.

Theo van Gogh married Johanna Bonger in April 1889, but died two years later at a young age from syphilis.

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