EMILY: The [painter] from Italy had some sort of breakdown.
RORY: Oh my God.
LORELAI: Hey, it didn’t hurt van Gogh, the guy should thank me.
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch post-impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of western art. In only a decade, he created more than two thousand oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life, his work becoming brighter, bolder, and more dramatic as his style developed.
Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions, and neglected his physical health, drinking heavily and not eating properly. His friendship with the painter Paul Gauguin ended with a confrontation during which van Gogh partially severed his own ear in a fit of rage. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, but after being discharged, his depression continued. He is believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver, dying two days later.
Van Gogh was commercially unsuccessful during his lifetime, but attained widespread success over the ensuing decades, and today his works are among the world’s most expensive paintings to have ever sold. His legacy is honoured by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Although van Gogh suffered lifelong mental health issues, it is thought he may have had an acute breakdown when he severed his ear, as he had no memory of the event. It certainly did hurt him – he ultimately killed himself. But Lorelai probably means it didn’t do his career any harm, as the mental illness and suicide have only given him an aura of tortured, misunderstood genius in the public imagination. [picture shows a Van Gogh self-portrait].
It’s clear the Italian painter’s Lorelai-caused breakdown also hurt him – a year later, he was apparently homeless or destitute, found rummaging through Emily and Richard’s recyclables. It was typical of Emily not to check that he was okay, or offer him help – after all, it was her daughter that supposedly drove him to madness! Hopefully he was just working on an art installation and looking for materials, or something.