We’ve all heard the story. Vincent van Gogh sliced off his ear in a fit of passion after threatening his roommate, Paul Gauguin with a razor. No one is certain why but there are a few theories. Van Gogh was upset that Gauguin became engaged to his longtime squeeze, Barbara Billingsley, and poof; there goes his half of the rent. Another is they just didn’t see eye to eye on painting techniques. You know how temperamental artists are. Just look at Bob Ross – happy little trees. That was a cover. I heard, when things didn’t go his way, he would beat his assistants with a cudgel while screaming out lyrics to Black Sabbath songs.
• Paint thief
Or maybe the famous Impressionist – and by Impressionist I mean the style of painting, not someone who can imitate Trump. Although, it was well known that Van Gogh, after a few beers, did a mean Pepé le Pew. Anyway, Van Gogh got sick and tired of Gauguin using up his titanium white brushing his teeth. Gauguin had desperately wanted his teeth as white as possible for the wedding photos.
• Je Parle Canard
However, if what Je Parle Canard, a well-known art critic of the time, claimed is true, that he was present in the artists’ yellow house when Gauguin glommed a glob of peanut butter from the jar with his paintbrush, wet and heavy with crimson, shoved it in his mouth, and then double-dipped; then perhaps the mystery of why Van Gogh cut off his ear is over.
Allegedly, Van Gogh hit the roof yelling, “Stupide merde! Comment puis-je savoir où cette bouche a été? Et maintenant, le beurre d’arachide a l’air d’avoir une oreille sanglante dedans. Je vais te couper avec mon rasoir!” Translation – “Stupid shit! How do I know where your mouth has been? And now it looks as though the peanut butter has a bloody ear in it. I will cut you with my razor!” Van Gogh was pissed.
Je Parle Canard believed that Van Gogh’s imagining a bloody ear in the peanut butter jar, gave him the idea of slicing off his own ear. When asked about Canard’s claim during an interview with the Arles Gazette, Gauguin said, “It is hogwash, what I Speak Duck said!” I Speak Duck was Je Parle Canard’s name translated into English. Gauguin was taking English lessons at the time and loved showing off what he’d learned.
• Post-Impressionism or acid
Gauguin continued, “The nut job, lopped off his ear in a fit of passion because Duck alleged Van Gogh was not an Impressionist, but a Post-Impressionist. Infuriated, Van Gogh insisted he wasn’t post anything. Either Duck’s remark sent him berserk or perhaps it was the acid-laced sugar cube I gave him for his coffee. I’m a real prankster, you know,” Gauguin said chuckling. “But it certainly wasn’t because of any double-dipping. Anyway, he owes me for my deed. The very next year, he painted Starry Night during an acid flashback.”
This hubbub was a real big to-do in the art world. Well, maybe not the art world but certainly in the Future Artistic Geniuses Club of the Cool Countries of Europe, an organization promoting the penniless, reprobate painters of the time. Anyway, the next thing you knew Van Gogh was painting a self-portrait with his ear bandaged, or what was left of it, and Gauguin, since the marriage thing didn’t work out, was spreading syphilis to the women of Tahiti.
• Ah, but what about the ear?
By all accounts, Van Gogh delivered his ear, first to his brother Theo, who didn’t accept it, stating he’d already eaten. Then he offered it to a hot babe, Gabrielle, who worked as a maid in a brothel Van Gogh frequented while she waited for a coveted opportunity to become a strumpet. It seems in France, during the late 1800s, one had to be twenty-one to work in the sex-trade and Gabrielle was merely eighteen. No one really knows why he offered her the appendage. Conjecture, though, says that it was a tip for the usual swell job she did changing the sheets before it was Van Gogh’s turn to frolic with a floozy – and I have my own idea who that floozy was – twenty-one or not. Gabrielle gratefully accepted the ear saying, “With this ear, I hope to listen to your beautiful paintings, Vincent.”
Van Gogh shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Has anyone got any Crazy Glue,” he called out.
Gabrielle quickly shoved the ear between her breasts deep within her cleavage. “You’ll not be an Indian giver, Vincent. I shall treasure this ear. Now, shall I change the bedsheets for you?” she said and winked.
• Vincent’s death
On July 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest while painting in the wheat fields of Auvers-sur-Oise. That evening in weak and in great pain, he arrived at his room at the Auberge Ravoux, where two days later, with Theo and a few close friends by his side, he died. According to Theo, Vincent van Gogh’s last words were, “The sadness will last forever.” However, according to Gabrielle, his last words were, “Remember the ear? Did you try it with peanut butter?”
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