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Van Gogh museum underfire for selling ‘insensitive’ £6 ear-eraser

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Vincent van Gogh exhibition is under fire for selling gifts branded ‘insensitive’ to the mental illness of the great artist.

15 of Van Gogh’s self-portraits – including his infamous self-portrait with bandaged ear after he cut it off – are on display at the Courtauld Gallery, in Somerset House in the first exhibition dedicated to his portraits here since 1960.

But some visitors came away with a nasty taste in their mouths after seeing gifts that they branded insensitive to mental health issues that lead the great to eventually commit suicide by pistol in 1890.

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, January 1889

/ Courtauld Gallery

The gift range includes a straw hat similar to the artist’s, and sunflower socks, scarfs, and seeds.

But an ear-shaped rubber eraser costing £6, attracted criticism for mocking van Gogh’s self-mutilation after fighting a fellow artist Paul Gauguin.

He began to hallucinate, lose consciousness and managed to use a knife to cut off his left ear. He could later recall nothing about the event.

Charles Thomson, a co-founder of the Stuckist group of artists, said: “Suicide is not a joke and mental illness is not a joke.”

“This is shallow, nasty and insensitive,” he told the Mail on Sunday. “What next? Van Gogh’s suicide pistol?”

Visitors can also buy a £5 bar of soap, marketed as ideal for “the tortured artist who enjoys fluffy bubbles”.

An “emotional first aid kit”, priced at £16, is described as “a box of wise emergency advice for 20 key psychological situations”.

The exhibition itself includes a murky self-portrait given by van Gogh to friends in Arles with much of the paint on the face scraped off.

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