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Book details
  • Genre:ART
  • SubGenre:Individual Artists / Monographs
  • Language:English
  • Pages:52
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350930139

The Madman of Arles

The Clinical Staffing of Vincent van Gogh

by H. N. Pollard

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The Madman of Arles was originally written as part of a commemoration of Vincent van Gogh's life. It was produced by the Charlotte Players Readers Theatre and presented at the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda, Florida. Though fictional, the play nonetheless describes an event that could have actually occurred during Vincent's last hospitalization prior to his suicide. The drama takes place at the psychiatric hospital, Saint Paul de Mausole. Characters include hospital staff and guests who discuss Vincent's illness and treatment, and who interview the patient. The dialog leads the audience to understand Vincent's heartfelt goals in life and his ultimate wish to die at the peak of his career.
The Madman of Arles is based on history, but is a fantasy, a docudrama. The author has taken some small liberties with chronology and geography, but the piece is generally factual. All of the characters existed, more or less in the roles given them, but the dialog is the author's invention. Still, there is not a line in the play that is out of character for any of them. Their speeches are what they might have said, had one been there to hear them. Similarly, it is unlikely that the real persons upon whom the characters are based were ever assembled in one place at one time, but it is nonetheless a possibility that they were. At any rate, they were all connected through Vincent. The play is set at the psychiatric hospital at St. Remy, St. Paul de Mausole, and Vincent's medical problems were those that he actually experienced. The treatments he underwent for those illnesses were standard for the time, the end of the nineteenth century. The play takes place in the Chapel of the hospital. The doctors and orderlies have assembled for their usual monthly meeting. As is customary, one of the doctors, Dr. Felix Rey, is to present one of his cases, and has heightened his chances of making a favorable impression on the hospital's demanding director, Dr. Theophile Peyron, by inviting several guests. The guests include Vincent's brother, Theo, and two of his artist-friends, Paul Gauguin and Toulouse Lautrec. Also present are Rachel, a prostitute , and Sergeant Dumas, a gendarme, both from Arles. George Poulet, one of the hospital orderlies, is there, and a visiting psychiatrist, Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, is also present. The assemblage discuss Vincent's illness and treatment, and the patient is interviewed. The dialog leads the audience to understand Vincent's heartfelt goals in life, and his ultimate wish to die at the peak of his career.
About the author
Herschel Pollard has, throughout his life, been involved in radio, theater and film production. Pollard's doctorate in clinical psychology, coupled with his intense interest in art history, led to his study of Vincent van Gogh's personality and mental illness. The stage play, The Madman of Arles, grew out of Pollard's lectures about the causal factors that contributed to Vincent's mental illness and suicide.