Vestible of the Asylum, 1889
When Van Gogh sliced off part of his ear in December of 1888, Gauguin fled the Yellow House for good, and Théo and others close to the artist became gravely concerned about his volatility, delusions, and potential for harming himself, urging him to seek a doctor’s care. After several anguished months, in May 1889 Vincent voluntarily admitted himself to the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole, located just outside Saint-Rémy-de Provence, about the twelve miles from Arles. Originally a 12th-century monastery, the building and grounds were converted to their new purpose in the 19th century. This is one of several images he made of the asylum. It offers a view of the vestibule, or entrance hall, with a look to the outside world.
The work began as an under-drawing in black chalk on pink paper, which the artist then went over in oils.
Since it was believed that making art would be beneficial to his state of mind, Van Gogh was given two small rooms, one for use as a bedroom and the other as a studio. Initially alarmed by the asylum’s other patients, he came to empathize with their suffering, referring to them as “my companions in misfortune.” Though he was quite prolific during his twelve-month stay, the artist continued to experience periodic attacks of what was most likely epilepsy. These exhausting episodes prevented him from working for days, or even weeks, and dampened his spirits. Vincent eventually sought the care of a certain Dr. Gachet outside the asylum, and moved to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, where he would spend his final days under the physician’s care.