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Vincent Van Gogh May Have Cut off His Entire Ear

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When famed Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear in Arles, France, in December 1888, he may have chopped the whole thing off instead of simply slicing off a tiny piece, The New York Times reports.

Scholars had long debated the severity of van Gogh’s injury, but when author Bernadette Murphy was researching the artist’s later years for a book, she discovered new historical evidence: a letter written by Félix Rey—a doctor who treated van Gogh after he lost his ear—which contained a sketch of the mutilated organ. In the physician’s rendering, the painter had completely severed it from his head.

Some experts are skeptical of Murphy’s evidence, and say that witnesses who saw van Gogh after Dr. Rey treated him saw that he still had part of his ear. And a doctor who tended to van Gogh in 1890 made his own etching of the mangled body part. In his depiction, some of the ear’s outer portion still remains.

Aside from the ear's appearance, many aspects of the grisly incident remain a mystery more than a century later. For instance, nobody knows quite why van Gogh famously gave his ear to a woman working at a brothel, whom Murphy identified as a bar maid who had been injured by a dog. (Murphy, who tracked down the maid's living descendants while researching her book, believes van Gogh was offering her his own flesh in a misguided attempt to “heal” her wounds, The Telegraph reports.) Meanwhile, scholars still don’t know how van Gogh lost his ear, and theorize that he cut it off himself in a fit of depression, or that fellow artist and expert fencer Paul Gauguin sliced it off with a rapier after van Gogh threw a wine glass at him.

However, a new exhibit at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, “On the Verge of Insanity,” leans toward the mental illness explanation: It displays Félix Rey’s note and drawing alongside 25 paintings and previously unseen documents and artifacts, like the revolver van Gogh may have used to kill himself on July 29, 1890, in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Together, the items paint a fuller portrait of the Dutch Impressionist’s declining mental health during the last years of his life. (Experts believe that van Gogh—who suffered from recurrent psychotic episodes, losses of consciousness, and vacillating moods—may have had temporal lobe epilepsy, bipolar disorder, or a combination of the two.)

“On the Verge of Insanity” opens on Friday, July 15 and runs until September 25. It coincides with the release of Murphy’s book, Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story, which will be the basis of a forthcoming BBC documentary.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Ape Meets Girl
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Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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