A Master’s Heartbeat

View of the Asylum and Chapel at Saint Remy

View of the Asylum and Chapel at Saint Remy

His vantage point from the small window was enough that he could see several different buildings and the expanse of the wheat fields growing beyond. But there were days when he just stared unseeing out the window too ill to really even enjoy the view.  His distinguished, yet haunted blue eyes were sunken into his thinning face.  He didn’t have much of an appetite during his stay in the asylum and most days he ate only bread and soup.

Though painting was a calming past time, there were days that he wasn’t allowed to paint because of his compulsion to drink his turpentine and paints which would then add to the complications of his epilepsy and mental state. In spite of that, he managed to produce many paintings, and some of his most famous, during his stay at Saint-Paul.

When well enough he could wander the gardens, grounds and halls of the property and often these sites would find their way into his art. A long corridor echoed his depression with its cold, vacant, gray benches and darkened shadows cast throughout.

expressionless eyes
pleading, hollow, impassive
a master’s heartbeat

I used a senryu here rather than the traditional haiku.

This is Haibun Monday #3 over at dVerse Poets and Bjorn shares a painting by van Gogh to inspire us:  http://dversepoets.com/2015/11/02/haibun-monday-3/

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  1. I really like how you ended this story…both the form and wording of those last three lines…

    Excellent 🙂


  2. This seems to evoke the place and person.


  3. You’ve captured the melancholy of van Gogh’s life and art.


  4. A narrative of pain and darkness beautifully penned…an artist’s expressionless eyes says it all.


  5. It is a wonder how many great paintings that an asylum can produce… somehow the grey corridors have to be the perfect backdrop for colors… I love how you went into the mind of van Gogh to write this wonderful haibun…


    • Yes, isn’t it? Maybe we should use this form of inspiration more frequently in the future. I think you can tell maybe when his mood was better as to the subject and colors used. I have a fascination as to the workings of the mind. I’m sorry he was such a tormented soul. And thank you, Bjorn, for your kind compliment.


  6. Very moving. Showing us the colors and the shadows made it even more so


  7. I like the deeper reflections of the man, in pain, under addictions, and frail mental state ~

    Despite this, his work is wonderfully painted with lush colors ~ A lovely haibun Gayle ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Grace. I too find it pretty amazing that he produced such paintings with deep, rich colors that certainly didn’t reflect a troubled mind…at least some of the time.


  8. In every creature
    i believe.. exists
    a drive for freedom
    from all illusory restraints..
    and tools of brush
    and paint can
    express this
    desire now
    in humans
    as great
    as any
    or poetry book..
    like any other expression
    of what humans call art..
    and it is truly sad when
    it takes great
    and pain
    to set
    of more of seeing
    free as art..
    but that
    as expreSsinG
    different becomes
    more tolerating and accepting
    as is the case coming now
    where freedom
    rings trueR..
    in expresSinG
    Living free now..
    in.. IT.. info tech
    a digital
    no less than
    the opposable
    thumb that
    IT all
    long long ago..
    sketching imaginary
    angle connections of stars
    in sand.. with sticks..
    comes next
    and the
    rest is collective
    intelligence as
    recorded history
    and the rest
    of culture
    and this
    of 1’s and
    0’s as digit
    of ART

    expresSinG aLL
    tHUMb digit 0NE..:)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Exactly as I imagined it would have been for him. Truly masterful and sensitive. The senryu is perfection.


  10. This makes me want to weep–I didn’t know about the turpentine. I wish I could have been there to help…I’m not depressive (thank God) but I feel a certain kinship to him. Beautiful and poignant.


    • Victoria, I actually did a little research and found that he did drink turpentine and paint. It made me wonder if it brought about his mental conditions, but for sure it would have exacerbated them. Poor, poor man…


  11. You write so well. I can see and feel his suffering


  12. Suzanne

     /  November 4, 2015

    You have captured van Gogh’s suffering well. The line about drinking the turpentine got me. It is easy to imagine that is exactly what he did do.


    • Thank you, Suzanne. In some of the little bit of research I did, I found that he did indeed drink turpentine and paint and ate mostly soup and bread. He surely was a tormented soul.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A lovely depiction of a sad story… Such beauty came from the depths of that tortured soul.


  14. A hard-hitting and poignant description of a rather desperate state of mind – all the more to wonder how such maginificent art was created. The days when he wasn’t allowed to paint really got to me, as that must have been very painful. You really burrowed into his very soul – and interesting that you chose third person rather than first.


    • After a little research into his stay at the asylum I learned some rather painful facts about him. He truly was a desperate and tortured soul…and yet magnificent talent flowed through him too. He would write letters to his brother, Theo, telling him how difficult it was when he couldn’t paint or had to ask permission. And thank you, Marina Sofia.


  15. I agree with Kazenskura. This is a perfect. The fact of his drinking turpentine indicates his alcoholism, there must’ve been drugs involved too, outside of what he was given as medication or treatment.


    • Thanks so much, I appreciate your compliment, Petru. He had a few mental and physical maladies that brought about a deep desperation within…poor man.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, wow…this was intriguing and your closing line tying in with your title – very poignant!


  17. I knew that VanGogh had faced problems, but had never heard how troubled he was. Your piece is a wonderful tribute to a fantastic artist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Bryan. I didn’t know the extent of his problems either until I dug a little into his background…really sad.


  18. I like how you incorporated many facts about van Gogh into your haibun. The last line of your prose really sums up the torment and darkness that he must have experienced.

    “A long corridor echoed his depression with its cold, vacant, gray benches and darkened shadows cast throughout.” A vivid picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade)

     /  November 11, 2015

    Thank you for this further insight into my (and many people’s) favourite artist.


    • You’re very welcome, Rosemary. He is a favorite of many. I just have to tell you that while you were over here at my blog I was revisiting your Cronewyze blog and reading up on how you took Reiki training. This past summer I took my level one training and really loved it. I had written a post called “Dead Woman Talking” and you had linked it to your Cronewyze blog…this was a while back. But found it interesting that we both were visiting each others blogs yesterday.



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