why van Gogh’s hysterical self-blame took a gruesome turn when his friendship with Gauguin collapsed. For that, the psychiatric label of bipolarity will serve both as well as and as badly as such previous conjectures, enumerated by Gayford, as “an overdose of digitalis, lead poisoning (from paint), absinthe-induced hallucinations, a condition of the inner ear named Ménière’s disease, severe sunstroke and glaucoma,” not to mention “schizophrenia, syphilis, epilepsy, acute intermittent porphyria”—George III’s probable malady—“and borderline personality disorder.”
If dosed with the proper mood-stabilizing drug in 1888, would van Gogh have become, as Gayford ventures, “a different—and probably a duller—artist”?
Rejected in attempts at romance, he had doomed affairs with demimondaines; for a time, he lived with a Dutch prostitute who had two children, gaining a taste of domestic happiness that haunted him ever after. Van Gogh came to rely on prostitutes—“little good women,” in his words—but he advised Bernard in a letter, “Don’t fuck too much. Your paintings will be all the more spermatic.”