|Almond Blossom (1890, the last year of his life)|
Van Gogh used to hang his pictures in threes, like triptychs, almost as if they constituted an altarpiece. He was inclined to be religious, saw himself as a pilgrim (the painting of a Pair of Boots is shown in this exhibition; when in England he spent three days walking to London on a sort of pilgrimage), even practised as a preacher for a while, before he was told to stop that. He was mentally unstable, probably bi-polar, and developed epileptic symptoms related to his poor health. All his teeth had fallen out, which explains why there are no smiles in the self portraits. The famous ear-cutting episode was due to a nervous breakdown and a familiarity with bull fights in which the bull's ear is traditionally awarded to the victor. In this case van Gogh imagined he was the bull and that his ear was Gauguin's prize. In Arles near the end of his life van Gogh sought treatment from a homeopathic doctor, but painting flowers and scenery was the more effective therapy.
He wrote touchingly to his Dutch brother:
...met een linnen kiel aan, [ik] rook mijn pijp en kijk in de diepe blaauwe lucht––of naar het mos of het gras. Dat calmeert mij.(Wearing a linen smock, I smoke my pipe and look up into the deep blue sky––or at the moss or the grass. That calms me down.)