Jenkins visits Moreland, now terminally ill, in his hospital bed. Moreland recalls a time when Sir Magnus had been erroneously told that he had a year to live. Moreland said, “I now find myself in a stronger position than in those days for vividly imagining what it felt like to be the man in the van Gogh picture, so to speak Donners-on-the-brink-of-Eternity.” [TK 275/271]
Van Gogh painted At Eternity’s Gate in May, 1890, just as he was recovering from a two month illness, caused by or at least accompanied by severe depression, and two months before his apparent suicide.
Moreland, nearing death, was looking back to others’ response to our universal mortality and thinking how the approach of death changed the view. Van Gogh was also looking back, referencing his own earlier works, which started as a pencil drawing of a resident of an almshouse and evolved to a lithograph. At the lower left of the lithograph, reportedly in Van Gogh’s own hand, is the inscription “At Eternity’s Gate.”