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Blum, H.P. (2009). Van Gogh's Fantasies of Replacement: Being a Double and a Twin. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(6):1311-1326.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(6):1311-1326

Van Gogh's Fantasies of Replacement: Being a Double and a Twin

Harold P. Blum

The replacement child, often given the name of the deceased, is prone to fantasies that he or she is the embodiment of the dead child. Vincent van Gogh was born one year to the day after a stillborn brother of the identical name, including the middle name, Willem. In the parish register van Gogh was given the same number twenty-nine as his predecessor brother. Van Gogh's fantasies of death and rebirth, of being a double and a twin, contributed to both his psychopathology and his creativity. The replacement theme in van Gogh's life and work is evident in his voluminous correspondence containing drawings and references to his art. His parents and his brother Theo are viewed as having shared a familial fantasy system. Van Gogh's self-portraits are regarded as relevant to his being a replacement child. No single fantasy or theme can account for the complexities of development, disorder, or creativity. Van Gogh's art was vastly overdetermined, including extraordinary endowment and the motivation of a replacement child to justify his survival, surpass his rival double/twin through great achievement, repair parental depression, and defy death through immortality.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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