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Art and Images in Psychiatry
December 2002

Portrait of Dr Gachet

Author Affiliations

James C.HarrisMD

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59(12):1083-1084. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.59.12.1083

I have a portrait of Dr Gachet with the grief-stricken expression(expression navree) of our times. You could say somewhat like your Christ in the Garden of Olives . . .—van Gogh to Gauguin, June 18901

ON JULY 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) died in the arms of his brother Theo at 1:30 AM, poignantly saying to Theo, "if it could always be like this."2 He died 29 hours after staggering back to his hotel in Auvers, France, after shooting himself in the chest.2 He had gone out to paint immediately after breakfast2 days before, taking a gun with him that he used to keep crows away when he worked. When he returned home late, about 9 PM, the landlady's wife expressed her worries about his absence and asked if anything unfortunate had happened. He started to answer but then went directly to his room. Upstairs, the landlord heard him groaning and went to him asking if he was ill. Vincent lifted his shirt to reveal bleeding from a "dark red hole surrounded by a purplish halo3-4 cm below the left nipple"—a self-inflicted gunshot wound.3 The local physician was called, but Vincent asked for Dr Paul Gachet. When Dr Gachet arrived, he spoke of Vincent's possible recovery, but Vincent said, "then I should have to do it all over again."2

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