Skip to content

Van Gogh’s Relationship with Alcohol

Vincent van Gogh drank alcohol in excess. More specifically, his drinking of the potent alcohol absinthe, also referred to as “the green fairy” it was said to induce hallucinations and delirium. Absinthe is also thought by some to cause drinkers to see a the appearance of yellow around objects, and some claim that it is evident in works such as Starry Night. But more recent research has revealed that the quantity of absinthe consumed needs to be substantial in order in order to achieve this effect This is why it’s likely not the reason behind Van Gogh’s yellow hues. Absinthe drink was commonplace among the art world at the time of Van Gogh’s and his drinking of the drink came as no surprise.

There’s some debate over the health issues that afflicted Van Gogh’s career, regardless of the accurate diagnosis the fact that alcohol will be a contributing factor to the issues. Many researchers believe that his work and letters reveal the characteristics of an absinthe addict. Van Gogh was aware of the effects that alcohol had on his personality, yet he decided to drink it regardless.

In a letter sent to Theo on the 29th of June 1888 Theo wrote to Van Gogh wrote,

“After it, however, the sole way to create ease and distraction in my case as well as others it is to awe yourself with lots of alcohol or heavy smoking.”

Alcohol is likely to have played an important role in Van Gogh’s unpredictable behaviour and his delusions and hallucinations. While there was a belief that absinthe could possess therapeutic properties, it was banned for several years in various nations and people made use of Van Gogh’s “madness” as evidence of the negative effects of the drug. The artist’s friend, Cezanne said to Van Gogh, “Sir, you paint like you’re a madman.” Van Gogh acknowledged that some of his bizarre behavior may be the result of his drinkinghabits,

“Meanwhile you are aware that if alcohol was undoubtedly was one of the main cause of my madness it began to manifest slowly and will fade away in a slow manner, as long as it goes away in the right direction, of course. It’s the same is the case if it’s a result of smoking. However, I would only like to hope that it is a result of this recovery (probably a word was left out here] of the horrifying belief system of some people regarding alcohol, in order to insist on not ever to smoke or drink.”

For more reading on Van Gogh wine head on over to

There is a belief that during during his period in Arles during his time living in Arles, in the Yellow House with Paul Gauguin Van Gogh’s drinking habits reached its highest. He led a bizarre lifestyle with absinthe as a constant drink. He would paint outside at night , lighting an open flame in his hat. He cut off a part from his ear, and left it in the brothel of a girl known as Rachel and told the girl to “keep this item as it was a treasure”. After the incident, the artist was sent to an asylum. The residents of Arles have signed an petition calling for the removal of Van Gogh to leave the town.