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article imageNew Van Gogh biography: Painter did not commit suicide, was shot

By Igor I. Solar     Oct 17, 2011 in Entertainment
Vincent Van Gogh would have died from an accidental shooting by a teenager in the countryside of the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise, according to a new biography of the artist, calling into question the theory of his suicide.
After studying thousands of documents and books related to the painter, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, authors of “Van Gogh, the Life”, a new biography of the Dutch post-Impressionist artist concluded that, contrary to what has been believed, Van Gogh did not commit suicide, but he was accidentally hit by a bullet shot by a youngster he met at the time he was at a wheat field where he used to paint. The biographers presume that the shooter was known to the painter.
According to the book, René Secrétan, a 16-year-old vacationer, a fan of Wild West adventures, was dressed as a cowboy when he hit the artist in the chest by accident with a .380 calibre weapon.
According to the biography, after being hurt, the artist staggered back to the Ravoux Inn where he was staying. When someone there asked him if he had tried to kill himself, the artist vaguely replied, "I guess so". He died 30 hours later after pronouncing his last words: "The sadness will last forever." The authors believe that the artist made that statement in order to protect René Secrétan and his brother Gaston, who was also present at the time of the shooting.
According to the authors of the biography, the suicide theory does not fit with the view that the painter had about “causing one's own death”; he had referred to suicide as “immoral and indecent” and “an act of cowardice”. Additionally, the direction of the bullet in his chest was oblique and it is supposed that if he had shot himself the direction of the bullet would have been straight into his heart. Furthermore, the weapon was never found. Also missing where the easel, paint and brushes he supposedly had brought with him to the countryside on that day, July 27, 1890.
Naifeh and White Smith claim in their book that the Dutch painter, who died at age 37 after several years of frequent bouts of mental illness including anxiety, increasing frustration and severe fits of depression and hallucinations, shortly before his death was extremely sad, lonely and psychologically tormented, thus he may have received and consider death a relief to his endless despair.
However, experts at the Van Gogh Museum remain unconvinced. Leo Jansen, curator at the Museum and editor of the artist's letters, calls the biography a "great book," but has doubts about the authors' theory of the Dutch master’s death.
"We cannot yet agree with their conclusions because we do not think there is enough evidence yet," said Jansen.
“A starry night” Vincent van Gogh (1889)  oil on canvas. In the permanent collection of the Muse...
“A starry night” Vincent van Gogh (1889), oil on canvas. In the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941. It’s considered Van Gogh’s greatest work.
More about Vincent van g, Suicide, Depression, Accidental shooting, Steven Naifeh
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