By Senay Boztas, amsterdam
The famously tortured artist Vincent van Gogh did not suffer from lifelong medical conditions, according to new analysis released by the Dutch museum dedicated to his life and work.
Instead, 30 international medical experts have announced that it is likely the artist had an alcohol problem and suffered from repeated breakdowns during his final 18 months.
Neurologists, psychiatrists and internal medicine specialists have been taking part in a two-day conference in Amsterdam to try to determine a “definitive” medical diagnosis for the Dutch post-impressionist painter.
“One of the things we really do not like in our culture is that things just happen“
Medical ethics professor Arko Oderwald
Weighing up evidence, including his many letters, they analysed competing theories that he had suffered from illnesses including epilepsy, cycloid psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder.
The panel concluded that the most probable diagnosis was more prosaic.
“One of the things we really do not like in our culture is that things just happen,” Arko Oderwald, moderator and medical ethics professor, told The Daily Telegraph. “Yes, he had difficult character traits, but it wasn’t a disease.”
The experts divided the artist’s life into two periods – before and after his documented breakdown on December 23 1888 in Arles, southern France, when the artist argued with his friend, Paul Gauguin, and cut off his own ear.
This was the first of several breakdowns and he was in and out of hospital until he died of a gunshot wound on July 29 1890 in an apparent suicide.
“Before December 23 1888, it is not really possible to say he had a disease or an illness, although you could point out certain things that could give you problems,” said Mr Oderward. “But the outcome was suddenly he collapsed and has a psychosis.
“This could come from alcohol intoxication, lack of sleep, work stress and troubles with Gauguin, who was going to leave – attachment being one of his problems in life. He has repeated episodes of psychosis but recovered completely in between.”
Although van Gogh was diagnosed with epilepsy at the time, definitions had changed, Mr Oderwald said.
Ultimately, “one single thing cannot explain the entire picture of what happened to van Gogh,” he said.
Teio Meedendorp, senior researcher at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, said the findings would be presented in a paper.
The symposium on Sept 14 and 15 complements the museum’s current exhibition, On the Verge of Insanity, which includes the gun which van Gogh used to shoot himself. – The Telegraph
Date: Published: 15 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 9:24PM