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Nowadays there are several discussion on most popular and known paintings and painters. Experts, artists and many people try to figure out the artist’s miseries or hidden realities behind paintings through elements of painting interpretation. Indeed roots of relavance between art and these attitudes can be explained by develepment of psychoanalysis at 20th century. It is a method that was founded by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) who is Austrian neurologist. He developed and used the method to understand and explain his mental patients behaviors. According the method, subconscious shapes people behaviors because there are serious and main problems in there. These problems can be reveal via verbal communication because it involves significant cues -as tongue slip- about subconscious. After Freud, there were other people who follows his thoughts. Jacgues Lacan (1901-1918) – who has contributed new dimensions to psychoanalaysis – was the one of them. The connection between art and psychoanalysis were started by ideas of psychoanalysis founder (Freud) toward art and artists. His interpretations for Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)’s works using psychoanalytic items as chilhood and subconscious still go on with different opinions. There are similar arguments about artists’ personalities and works as Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) who liked to drawing nature -an impressionist artist.- In the article, I am going to evaluate Vincent Van Gogh’s life and behaviors using a movie -Eternity’s At Gate by Julian Schnabel- about Van Gogh’s life and his letters to his brother –Theo- through psychoanalytic concepts as eros-thanatos (life instinct and death instinct which are managed by id), mirror image (development of ego and superego and their reflections on behaviors) and Freud’s opinion about art (art as sypmtom and moderator between past and present). 


       I think Van Gogh draws into light of impressionism because he had an aim to make elements of nature perminent via paintings. It comes from his passion toward nature. In a scene of his movie he replies a question that I am drawing flowers because they will die at one day but mine flowers will resist. He express own feelings that god is nature and nature is beauty. Also he says that he wants to show his seeings in nature to others. He could explain why he loves to drawing nature hence I believe that his act was conscious. On the other hand, Van Gogh’s observation and drawing passion can be interpret according to the Freud’s argument. Freud focuses on artists life to explain their works. He argues art is symptom which reflects the person’s traumas (for instance, a child accepts his/her mother as own part but in time it is understood and it transformed a trauma unconsciously). Overdevelop insticts are important signals to find out traumas. These type of insticts can show themselves via sublimation.He always observes nature, tries to feel it deeply so spent more time even he sleeps in the garden bed. In the scene, when he arrived to room he was directly starting to drawing instead the cold weather and his miserable situation. Perhaps, drawing instinct was managed by his sexual instict or a trauma in childhood affected the unstoppable drawing instict. He thinks feelings toward artworks like pleasure are maneged by these traumas. The argument refers that art is like a bridge which connects past and present. 

Vincent Van Gogh

    According to Lacan and Freud’s perspectives, I  believe, Van Gogh was in the middle of contrasts of emotions like corrects and ircorrects or bad and good. I think because he was good person while he did not say anything about children who were causes of his death (as shown by the film) or his relationship for -only- help a poor pregnant woman (as learnt by his letters to Theo) whereas he was dangerous and aggressive person when he attacked to girl who was wanted to paint or cut his ear. His behaviors can be explained using Lacan’s mirror-stage. It suggests people develop during childhood in two ways which call ego and superego . Superego is represent of excellence and be causes of finding out missings on himself/herself’s ego.Parent and envorimental factors are significant for processing of supergo. In other words, superego plays mirror role in ego. According to Lacan, the situation emerges internal deficieny which creates traumas -as highlighted in secong paragraph-. Van Gogh says that there is something which i do not know in my inside. Moreover he says he painted to stop his thoughts. Also, Van Gogh’s these inconsistent and strange behaviors can be explained with Freud’s concepts eros-thatanos also. For example, I think that Van Gogh’s thatanos was be stronger than eros in time (eros provide to live with love, it is more positive unlike death stimulation is thatanos). Basic things like to eat or breath are eros acts that provide person life’s going on. Negative acts like violence or being agressive are part of thatanos. In time his thatanos showed own effects through aggressive instinct and he could damage himself as cutting own ear. Also, he had killer instinct as he wrote to Theo that I can kill someone if i do not paint. 

Vincent and Theo Van Gogh, Eternity’s At Gate by Julian Schnabel

     In conclusion, his expressions can be interpreted through conflict of superego and ego because verbal expressions are affected by psychoanalysis. I think Van Gogh lived both sides of eros and thatanos, ego and superego and his subconscious could affect his paintings via insicts. On the other hand, I am glad to him because he could render plants, flowers and nature items immortal through paintings. Van Gogh is as he wrote to Theo that “I am what I draw.”


Freud. S. (1979). Sanat ve Sanatçılar Üzerine. Kamuran Şipal (trans.). İstanbul: Publisher of Bozak

Van Gogh, V. (2015). Theo’ya Mektuplar. Pınar Kür (trans.). İstanbul: YKY

Castanet, H. (2017). Lacan’ı Anlamak. Baturalp Aslan (trans.). İstanbul: Encore

Freud, S. (2018). Psikanaliz Üstüne. Mert Hüseyin Ergül (trans.) İstanbul: Erasmus 

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