The Secret of Wine Addiction Behind Van Gogh’s Phenomenal Paintings

A Dutch post-Impressionist painter named Vincent van Gogh affected art history. Van Gogh’s art has become famous for its expressive and colorful nature, often featuring swirling brushwork, and you may know him from his famous piece The Starry Night.

He is known for his emotional and turbulent life full of mental illness and tragedy. As an artist who was passionate about creating, at times, he was somewhat self-destructive. Some have even questioned whether his wine addiction could be an underlying cause for his erratic behavior.[1]

Alcoholism is a contentious topic for historians, but many experts agree that Van Gogh was a wine addict. Some argue that his passion for art fueled his addiction; others claim that he drank to escape the pain of being an outcast.

Regardless of the cause, it’s clear from reading letters and journals written by Van Gogh himself that there was no denying him his daily dose of wine.

silhouette of people in cave

Absinthe Addiction

Absinthe was a popular drink among painters and poets of Van Gogh’s generation. It was also known to be hallucinogenic, though this has since been disproven. The beverage was outlawed in the US in 1912 because of the belief that it encouraged aggressive conduct.

Van Gogh was an avid drinker of absinthe, a highly alcoholic beverage banned in many countries due to its supposed effects on those who consumed it. Many people believe Van Gogh’s absinthe addiction led him to cut off his ear, but this is not the case. The famous artist’s self-mutilation resulted from his lifelong mental illness, which could have been exacerbated by drinking.

Although alcohol may have fueled his creativity, it also contributed to Van Gogh’s mental health deterioration. Some artists like Edgar Degas performed better when under the influence. Vincent Van Gogh would drink to relieve the stress of creating his art. However, alcoholism damaged his mental health and led to depression and unpredictable moods.

The Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh loved French wines. His phenomenal painting career was largely fueled by wine.

During an episode of mental illness and suffering from alcohol abuse and depression, Van Gogh eventually succumbed to mental illness. He slashed his ear off with a razor blade one night in 1888[2], only threatening to repeat the act on other parts of his body if another artist didn’t take care of him. According to Cornely and Meier, Van Gogh’s lasting manic-depressive condition ended the artist’s life.

Correlation between wine addiction and mental disorders

Depression patients are more prone than those without it to engage in binge drinking. Similarly, heavy drinkers are more likely to experience sadness than light or non-drinkers. A biographical study in 2018 found that Van Gogh drank nearly 2 liters (2 quarts) of absinthe per day as an adult[3]—that’s twice as much as what health experts recommend now for adults.

He also used other drugs such as hashish and ether-soaked cotton balls for anxiety attacks rather than visiting a doctor. These habits could have led him down an addictive path that eventually affected his mental state when combined with overindulgence in alcohol consumption.

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On this day in wine history

March 30, 1853: Van Gogh was born in Holland and spent much of his life in France. He began painting at an early age, and he was exhibiting at local art shows by the time he was 20 years old.

July 29, 1876: Vincent Van Gogh became a world-famous artist for his works of art focusing on sunflowers, fields, and countryside vistas. It was not an easy road to success. Van Gogh was susceptible to giving in to wine addiction during his early adult years, widely believed to have influenced his artwork.


[1] Paul Wolf, Clinical professor of pathology: Creativity and chronic disease Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890); West J Med. 2001 Nov; 175(5): 348.

[2] William M Runyan: Journal of Personality and Social psychology 40 (6), 1070, 1981

[3] Simon Cotton: Vincent van Gogh, chemistry and absinthe; 1 May, 2011

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