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Heiman, M. (1976). Psychoanalytic Observations on the Last Painting and Suicide of Vincent Van Gogh. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:71-79.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:71-79

Psychoanalytic Observations on the Last Painting and Suicide of Vincent Van Gogh

Marcel Heiman

Christmas 1888 was an especially unhappy time for Vincent van Gogh (V.). He had looked forward so eagerly and had made such painstaking preparations for Gauguin to come to live with him in his yellow house in Arles. But after two short months, on that Christmas day, it all had come to an end with his self-mutilation. His brother Theo—instead of celebrating his engagement with the family of his fiancée, Johanna Bonger, in Holland—had rushed South from Paris to be with V. A few days later Gauguin and Theo had left—and V. felt alone again.

Only 18 months separate us from that fateful 29 July 1890 when Vincent died.

At this point I shall attempt to put together—and wherever possible interpret—some biographical data of V.'s last 18 months of life which, I believe, contribute to our understanding of his frame of mind during that time; data which I hope will help to clarify his motives for killing himself. The data are paintings and letters of that period of his life. I shall describe: (1) the painting known as La Berceuse: the 'Painted Lullaby'; (2) the 'abandoned' canvasses; and (3) V.'s last painting: his 'suicide' painting.


La Berceuse (Plate I), literally 'the lullaby', is the name V. gave to the painting of Madame Roulin, the wife of the postman. It is not an easy task to trace the origin of his interest in painting La Berceuse. And yet, I think it is of importance because of the link between La Berceuse and V.

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