Vincent van Gogh and the illnesses of his time: From venereal disease to epilepsy

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Vincent van Gogh was troubled by physical and mental discomforts his whole life. He often neglected his own health, but he was also continually trying to improve it by consulting doctors and medical books. Late December 1888 Van Gogh turned seriously ill, after which several hospitalizations and a voluntarily institutionalization followed. He found comfort in the idea that everybody could fall victim to ‘the illnesses of our time’, especially artists since they would be more vulnerable. What exactly did Van Gogh mean with the illnesses of his time? What did he and his doctors believe he had? For which ailments was he afraid? This lecture will explore different diseases that were rampant in the 19th century, such as alcoholism, epilepsy and syphilis, in the context of the then widespread belief in degeneration, determinism and heredity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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