‘Mental illness is no joke’: London gallery under fire for Van Gogh gifts | The Courtauld Institute of Art


Vincent van Gogh is perhaps also famous for his sunflowers and his act of self-harm. Outside of his paintings, when people think of the artist, they also think of his ear – or lack thereof.

But references to Van Gogh’s missing ear and sanity, in souvenirs for sale at the Courtauld Gallery in London drew criticism.

Currently showing a large display of his work, including his infamous self-portrait with bandaged ear, some of Courtauld’s products – such as a £6 eraser in the shape of an ear – have been marked as unresponsive.

The range to celebrate Van Gogh includes sunflowers galore, on socks, scarves and seed packets, as well as puzzles, postcards and printed souvenirs of his best-known self-portraits. But critics have attacked gift shop items highlighting Van Gogh’s severe mental health crisis that culminated in his suicide.

By cutting off his left ear, after an argument with his colleague Paul Gauguin, the Dutch painter became a legendary “tortured artist”.

As well as the eraser, visitors can buy a £5 bar of soap, marketed as ideal for “the tortured artist who loves fluffy bubbles”. An ’emotional first aid kit’, priced at £16, is described as ‘a box of sound emergency advice for 20 key psychological situations’.

Some were unimpressed with the attempt at humor.

Charles Thomson, co-founder of artist group Stuckist, said: “Suicide is no joke and mental illness is no joke.”

“It’s superficial, mean and insensitive,” he said. told the Mail on Sunday. ” And then ? Van Gogh’s suicide pistol?

Art critic David Lee, editor of Jackdaw magazinetold the newspaper: ‘I can’t believe it’s not someone in the attempt to market tasteless humor in the pub after work.’

“Would they, for example, be ready to sell pencils in the shape of a fake leg at a Frida Kahlo exhibition? he added, referring to the Mexican artist who lost a leg to gangrene.

It is believed that Van Gogh, a heavy drinker, suffered from psychosis when he cut off his ear in 1888 while living in France, after an argument with Gauguin. Thought I had bipolar disorder or epilepsy of the temporal lobe, he spent more than a year at the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy, and in 1890, aged 37, committed suicide, dying two days later.

The Courtauld has been approached for comment.

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