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.
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.
He described it as “an attempt from when I was ill” as he emerged briefly from the depths of a mental health crisis.
But he also wrote that if he was to recover, it was because “I’ve cured myself through working”.
The Courtauld Gallery has been approached for comment.