Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Doctor Gachet

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 10 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c790
  1. Jane Moore, general practitioner, Leatherhead, Surrey
  1. moore.jane{at}

    A new exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh’s art and writing has opened at the Royal Academy in London, the first major exhibition of the artist in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years. It includes rarely seen correspondence presented alongside the paintings. In a letter to his sister Wilhemina on 12 June 1890, Van Gogh referred to a portrait of his physician, Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, one of several he painted of the doctor.

    He wrote that in this painting (not in the current exhibition, as its whereabouts are unknown, though an etching is) he had tried to portray Doctor Gachet’s “sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent” expression. The picture shows a foxglove on the table, representing Gachet’s medical status and, possibly, the digitalis …

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