She Met the Red-Haired Artist

By Gabrielle Frulla

Jeanne Calment was a French woman who possessed the title of a super-centenarian, which is rare to obtain in one’s lifetime. Her 122 years and 164 days of life on this earth granted her the status of the longest living human being. With the pleasure of living as long a life as Calment came adventures and run-ins with all kinds of people. The most notable person for Calment was the artist Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh visited her father’s shop, where he bought art supplies, such as a variety of canvases and colored pencils. Upon recalling her interactions with Van Gogh, Calment explained that he was a rather promiscuous man who enjoyed liquor, and was rather strange looking. Van Gogh hardly struck her as a celestial red haired being with a golden touch. She’d described him to news reporters as being a man who she tried to avoid due to his impoliteness and his resemblance to a vagrant. Regardless of his off-putting behavior, Calment provided him with the colors and cloths he needed to create his famous drawings. However, Calment had a life of her own besides being one of the many people to find themselves in the presence of a famed and obscure artist.

Calment was a painter of her own, but what else was there to do when you were born into a wealthy family? While she awaited the love of her life to come along, she practiced the piano and her painting skills. Calment finally found love in the eyes of her second cousin. Her love’s life almost came to an early end in 1942 when her husband, Fernand, ingested cherries treated with copper sulfate. Calment had eaten these cherries as well, though not as many, allowing her to also survive the strange event.

Calment came from money, which makes her encounters with Van Gogh all the more ironic. She’d seen Van Gogh in a different light from the way the world has come to recognize him. For one, she saw him when he had two ears, but she, also, took note his negative qualities. Though she was only thirteen when she met him, she realized just how strange artists could be, and did not glorify him, as we do now. Most people who came across an artist such as Van Gogh would presumably praise them, but not Calment. She chose to remain with a realistic attitude when she was asked by reporters about Van Gogh, and stuck to her truths. She had seen him as just another struggling artist who traipsed into her father’s shop instead of the great artist he truly was.

The very long story of Jeanne Calment’s life proves that, though you may have a famous name, your mannerisms and behavior may not reflect your prestigious career. One would think that coming from money would alter Calment’s feelings towards one of the world’s most well-known artists, but she saw Van Gogh for who he really was— an unusual artist with bad manners.


“Jeanne Calment.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Nov. 2018,

“MEETING VINCENT VAN GOGH.” Mucha Creative, 11 Nov. 2014,