This chapter was written circa 2005 and it does not live up to my current standards, but I figured it could still be a nice read, so I publish it anyway.
So, Van Gogh lived an extremely lonely life and was almost always alone in that period when he painted the above exposed painting. He went to a prostitute, probably looking for some human warmth, and that is about all we can say for almost sure. Then what happened exactly, we ain't too sure. I don't suppose Vince and her tried some new SM sexual technique, but rather than Vincent had a crisis. It's said that he proposed to pay her with a piece of his ear, which might be true or not (I have no idea how we would know anyway) but the mental attack theory is way much more plausible. And that is the one we will take. So you have to imagine Van Gogh going on an insane fit and hurting himself.
This paragraph I write in 2008, years after this was originally written. The trigger of Vincent’s crisis was the departure of his only friend, if you could consider this asshole a friend, Paul Gauguin. Among the things Gauguin did that make me disrespect this man thoroughly is that he tried to get credit for Van Gogh’s paintings, such as the sunflowers, whereas in truth, these paintings were already in Van Gogh’s house before Gauguin even saw them. Also, Gauguin abandoned his wife and children to go have sex with underaged prostitutes in the islands of the Pacific. Gauguin was never a good friend to Vincent and when he finally abandoned him, Vincent had this crisis.
The painting represents him once he's back home, alone. He has bandaged his hurt ear and obviously has got out of his insanity crisis. This kills me some. The hurt Vince alone in his home after some event he must not clearly understand. The other thing that breaks my heart is that he wears his outdoor clothes inside. The coat, the hat. He looks like he needs protection and uses everything he can to protect himself from the outside. His spiky hat literally looks like a hedgehog being defensive. His coat is buttoned up. He certainly still hurts from the cut, and likely, he doesn't remember much of what happened. And these eyes. That reminds of mine when I stare at a mirror and look at myself like I'm not expecting anything anymore. Breaks my heart.
In the background you can see a Japanese painting. This doesn't mean much at first sight without some knowledge of Van Gogh’s past. Fact is this: Vincent used to paint those Japanese style paintings in a previous and much happier part of his life. This painting in the painting (mise en abyme) is in fact Vincent's own painting. It stands in his back like his past happy life as a young painter in Paris.
I know this may not be one of Van Gogh's most famous or even best paintings, but it's a personal favourite of mine, and a most heart-wrenching one at that. And those pikes on his hat, "don't touch me I'm hurt." I love this painting for what it tells. Or for what I find in it, whichever.