Sci-Tech

How did Vincent van Gogh really die?

By Theresa Mallinson 17 October 2011

Until now, it had been widely assumed that 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh had killed himself, owing to psychological problems. A new biography blows that theory out of the water, and suggests someone else may have fired the fatal shot. By THERESA MALLINSON.

Ask the average person what they know about Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh and the phrases: “that sunflower painting”; “he cut off own his ear”; and “committed suicide” will probably arise in the ensuing conversation. Well, van Gogh did paint the sunflowers, but art historians are far from certain about his self-mutilating tendencies – or whether he actually committed suicide.

Back in 2009, academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans published a book called: “Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gaugain and the hint of silence”, suggesting that Gaugain chopped off his friend’s ear in a sword fight (whether intentionally or not a is matter for further speculation). And now a new book, by another set of art historians, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, claims that Van Gogh didn’t kill himself either.

In “Van Gogh: The Life” they contend that he was shot by a third party. Given Van Gogh’s unstable mental history, they argue that he would’ve had difficulty obtaining a gun; furthermore, as quoted in the New York Times, they claim that the bullet entered his abdomen “from an unusual, oblique angle – not straight on as one would expect in a suicide”.

A CBS interview with the authors was set to air on Sunday night, which should reveal more details, as will the book itself when it is published on Monday. What we can say for sure is that Van Gogh’s reputation for being crazy won’t be damaged by these revelations – after all, what normal person would be shot by someone else in an accident and then claim suicide? DM




Gallery

While we have your attention...

An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money, though not nearly as much as its absence can cost global community. No country can live and prosper without truth - that's why it matters.

Every Daily Maverick article and every Scorpio exposé are our contribution to this unshakeable mission. It is by far the most effective investment into South Africa's future.

Join our mission to become a Maverick Insider. Together we can Defend Defend Truth.


ANALYSIS

A depressed 2019 voter turnout – SA democracy’s big enemy

By Stephen Grootes

THE CLOTH AND THE RAPE

Omotoso abuse raises case for regulating religion

Greg Nicolson 21 hours ago

"Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone" ~ Mark Twain on Jane Austen