The story of Vincent Van Gogh’s severed ear is one that has gained significant significance over the years. Despite the fact that at the time of the severance, Van Gogh was not a highly revered painter and the ear represented little more than the drunken mishap of an eccentric individual, the ear has taken on a life of its own in the years since. After Van Gogh severed his ear, he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital where he produced the bulk of his major works, including the famous "Starry Night" painting. Although his works began to be recognized within his lifetime, Van Gogh’s fame was largely posthumous, and the public became fascinated with the idea of the one-eared madman who painted a bit.
This fascination came to a head when Van Gogh’s paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1935. The show attracted huge crowds numbering over 123,000 visitors, all eager to see the art of the madman who heard the world in mono. However, an annoyed art lover named Hugh Troy decided to play a prank by moulding a piece of dried beef into the shape of an ear and hanging it in the gallery above a plaque claiming it belonged to Van Gogh. The next day, the masses swarmed around the hoax artifact, and true fans were able to analyze Van Gogh’s brushstrokes in peace.
While the story of Van Gogh’s ear may seem comical, it highlights the way in which the public can become fixated on the lives of artists rather than their art. Van Gogh’s mental illness and untimely death only added to this fascination, and it wasn’t until many years later that his art was able to be fully appreciated for its own merit. Today, Van Gogh is recognized as one of the greatest artists in history, and his works continue to inspire and move people all over the world.