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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Yelllow and the Earless Fellow

Vincent Van Gogh, who as readers know by now, is one of my favorite painters, used a lot of yellow in his work.

It is believed that this was due to excessive use of the drug digitalis, which was being used to control his lifelong battle with seizures.  Evidently, the drug can cause the brain to see yellow halos or a yellow haze on and around objects.

During the last years of his life, Van Gogh produced a huge amount of work, many, like those above, had a strong yellow palette.

Vincent suffered from epilepsy, bi polar disorder and depression.  To combat these conditions and the effects of some of the drugs he was taking for them, he indulged in drinking absinthe.  Absinthe is a liquer made from the wormwood tree.  Excessive use of this drink had the potential to impair or even cause the death of the drinker.  A toxin called Thujone is one of the ingredients in Absinthe.  One of the effects of Thujone poisoning is casting a yellow tinge in vision.

And, finally, the paint used by Van Gogh had a high lead content.   Van Gogh was known to nibble on the ends of brushes as he painted, ingesting the lead paint. It is  believed that he may also have suffered from lead poisoning.  One of the effects of lead poisoning is to cast yellow halos or circles around objects.

These effects are believed to be confirmed by the painting Starry Night.

Digitalis, lead poisoning and Thujone poisoning may have been the cause of the use of  yellow in his work, but I think that everything that was Van Gogh, went into his paintings. His sadness, his joy, his love for his brother and family, his drive to paint on his own terms, his devote religious beliefs, his passion for living Life, with a capital L,  all went into the beauty that is his work.


  1. No wonder he went a bit nutty with all that lead in him.

  2. I love his work also and never knew this.

    Thanks for the insight into one of my favorite painters...

  3. It's amazing that someone with so many troubles could produce such beautiful work. Thanks for sharing all those facts. I have a new, greater appreciation for his work.

  4. Starry Night and Sunflowers are two of my favorite art pieces of all time!

  5. Excellent choice for letter Y♪ I'm wondering if any unknown Van Goghs are in that art discovery recently made of Nazi treasures. http://lauriekazmierczak.com/yellow-zone/

  6. I live near the VAn Gogh Museum and his paintings just sing. Whatever his ailments they helped push a man crazy with his illness to find balance in his horrible existance by painting. As a painter I lose myself while painting and can understand Van Gogh since I'm bi-polar, too. He has been a great influence on my painting. xo Jenny

  7. even if drugs were the cause of the use yellow, I still think he freely chose to use the color.

    great alphabe-thursday. have a sweet day.

  8. Yikes, I had no idea, the reason for his yearn for yellow...

    This was your most interesting Van Gogh post yet - yipee!

    Thanks for linking to the letter "Y"!