Vincent van Gogh: letters, art, and context > Lifestyle and health

Vincent’s letters to Theo give an impression of his lifestyle, which was fairly unhealthy. He did not eat well, and he drank cheap wine. As a result, he had frequent stomach trouble. His teeth were also in poor condition, and in Antwerp he decided to have all his molars removed. [letter 557]

To save money for paint and canvas, Van Gogh often spent very little on food. He noticed that this was not good for him: “I’m beginning to believe more and more that food has something to do with our power to think and to make paintings.” [letter 690, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York]
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Visits to brothels
Occasional passing references in Vincent’s letters make it clear that he paid regular visits to brothels. For instance, in a letter to Theo from Arles, he wrote that he had seen little else “but the sort of 2-franc women”. [letter 659]
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Van Gogh often mentioned that he was ill, or on the verge of becoming ill. “I’m not ill, but I’d become so without any doubt if I didn’t take hearty food and if I didn’t stop painting for a few days.” [letter 709]
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In his letters to Theo, Vincent discussed both his physical and his mental health. “I well knew that one could break one’s arms and legs before, and that then afterwards that could get better but I didn’t know that one could break one’s brain and that afterwards that got better too.” [letter 743] 
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From the time that Vincent decided to become an artist, he received financial support, at first from his father and later from his brother Theo. This is why many of his letters begin with a word of thanks for a banknote that he had received. When he asked for more money, he always explained his reasons.
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