With reference to ‘Ode to Hitomi, a Japanese sunflower (large pencil drawing rephotographed under overcast sky)’ a few notes about Vincent Van Gogh.

Vincent Van Gogh painted a picture of a Japanese courtesan (after Japanese artist Eisen.) He was obsessed with Japanese woodblock prints and extolled Japanese art. He was also into pornographic photographs.

He had a huge collection of Japanese prints however no mention is made of erotic / pornographic Japanese prints but then his family would have destroyed such ‘evidence’ to keep up bourgeois appearances.

Vincent was so enamoured of Japanese art and life that he wanted to create a ‘Japan of the South’ (in the south of France.)

He had syphilis which he’d contracted as a young man in his late teens visiting prostitutes, in London, in Holland, (Antwerp,) and France (Paris.) He and Gauguin regularly went to brothels in Arles.

There was no cure for syphilis back then. Many people died of it. Vincent’s syphilitic condition was very advanced (his brother Theo had syphilis too.) He became impotent and began to develop other symptoms mental and physical. Trombone tongue, stamping gait, blindness, hallucinations.

He was not mad. He was just one of the most intelligent artists and well-read men ever to have walked the earth. Artists of Vincent’s mental calibre are very rare indeed. Most artists compared with Vincent are stupid, ignorant, half literate, and lazy.

He lived with a prostitute and tried to make a go of it. It didn’t work. All his relationships with women failed. He even felt his own mother never really loved him.

He looked at pornographic photographs (photography had only recently been invented) and masturbated while looking at them. He was caught at it in the woods one time and Rene Secretan ‘dubbed him with a new taunting sobriquet: “faithful lover to the Widow Wrist.” ‘

His ‘Sunflowers’ are little more than women’s breasts in flower form. The female breast, like the human face, is rich in connotations, and its powerful significance in human life has much to do with the fact that our earliest formative experience is all about being cradled in our loving mother’s arms and sucking at her mammary glands.

We had to leave the sanctuary of the womb, that original Garden of Eden, which came as a huge shock, and the outside world is not a friendly place. Our mothers arms, her face, her voice, her warmth, her breasts, kept us as helpless infants alive.

Vincent was probably aware of all this. Certainly subconsciously he sought the happiness of family life. And found it not.

The shape of the jug in his sunflower paintings is breast-like. It is also analogous to the shape of the girl’s hips in my drawing.

 

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