Van Gogh and Prostitutes

Van Gogh was always attracted to those looked down upon in society. He dedicated his life to the less fortunate firstly as a preacher, and then later as an artist.

Prostitutes were regarded poorly in Van Gogh’s day, so there is no surprise they became subjects of some of Van Gogh’s paintings, or that he would often turn to them for human contact.

Van Gogh and Sien

Van Gogh was unlucky in love, though he had his longest romantic relationship with a prostitute named Sien. He invited her and her young child to live with him, as she was heavily pregnant at the time and had no where else to go.

She allowed herself to become Van Gogh’s muse and model for this period and she sat for him often, giving Van Gogh ample time to develop his portrait skills. Van Gogh preferred friends and lovers, as well as models for his paintings, that had overcome difficulties in their life.

It was through suffering that Van Gogh found a way to relate to others.

Van Gogh Prostitute Sien

Van Gogh, brothels and a severed ear

Through his life Van Gogh frequented brothels. He lived a lonely existence, often going through large amounts of time without much human interaction. Prostitutes then became very important.

They were a place to turn when Van Gogh needed female company. It was famously claimed that Van Gogh had given the remains of his ear - after he had severed it off in a fight with Gauguin in a fit of madness - to a prostitute in the local brothel.

New evidence has uncovered that in fact he gave it to the brothel’s maid, a young woman working there to pay off her medical bills after suffering a serious dog attack the previous year. She had a very large scar running across her arm.
Van Gogh and the maid had formed a friendship and it is thought that he offered his flesh as a symbolic gesture to her. It was she that alerted the police to Van Gogh’s injury, and it was the police the following morning that found Van Gogh dangerously close to death and rushed him to the doctors surgery.

Paintings featuring prostitutes

The Courtesan (after Eisen) is Van Gogh’s famous painting of a Japanese courtesan, a name given to a prostitute that tended to upper class and wealthy clientele in Japan.

Van Gogh like many artists of the time was heavily influenced by Japanese painting and technique, and would copy out the woodblock prints, adding his own perspective and style. More famously there is The Brothel.

A dark and mysterious painting that Van Gogh produced to show the hidden and dark desires that were often exhibited late at night, in establishments such as brothels, when all else had closed, and the respectable were safely home in bed.

The Courtesan prostitute  

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    06-01-2017 19:57     Comments ( 1 )
Comments (1)
 Lisa King -  29-11-2022

I've learnt something new thankyou