No doubt one of Van Gogh’s most macabre works, Skull of a skeleton with a burning cigarette is probably the most distinguished of his paintings from the Antwerp period.
It’s likely that the work was painted from a skeleton in an anatomy class while Vincent Van Gogh was studying art. A sketch, Hanging Skeleton and Cat, from the same period would appear to confirm this. The work–a stark momento mori–was produced in a time when Van Gogh’s health was poor (due to stomach ailments and rotting teeth) and may reflect Vincent’s own concerns about his state of well-being. Some interpret the work as being a statement of defiance against Vincent’s faltering health.
This disturbing painting Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette may have been influenced by the similar macabre works produced by the Belgian artist Félicien Rops. It’s known that Vincent owned a copy of Rops’ Uilenspiegel, a satirical arts journal and the work of Rops (shown at right), The Husbands’ Train: The Death of the Sinner, suggests a clear influence on Vincent’s own two skull and skeleton works cited here.
Van Gogh may also have been influenced by one of his own countrymen, the 17th-century Dutch artist, Hercules Segers, who also produced a disturbing work of a skull. It remains uncertain whether Van Gogh was aware of Segers’ works, but he did, of course, have a thorough knowledge of Dutch painters throughout the 17th to 19th centuries.
We are excited to collaborate with the Van Gogh Museum to produce this iconic artwork of Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette on a skateboard deck to put on your wall.