Monday, April 16, 2012

Van Gogh: Suicide or Homicide?

It's long been held that Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), died in the hay field he was painting by shooting himself. However, that wasn't really the end of the story of Van Gogh life.

After shooting himself in the chest, Van Gogh walked almost two kilometers from the field into town with the bullet wound. It is believed that the bullet had ricocheted off his ribs, missed all his internal organ and rested in his spine. He was attended by two doctors, but neither had the surgical skills to remove the bullet.
Van Gogh lingered for about 30 hours before he finally succumbed to an infection from untreated wound. This is the suicide version.

Now, the homicide version:

In their new book, "Van Gogh, The Life," authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith contend that Van Gogh was murdered. ( These authors have top credentials as previous Pulitzer prize winners who thoroughly researched their subject.) They drew their conclusion based on the following facts:

(1) No revolver was ever found,
(2) The entry of the bullet was not near the heart and was at a strange angle for a self-inflicted gunshot,
(3) Why weren't his painting supplies found in the hay field if he was painting as he claimed?
(4) Why was there rumor in town that he had been shot accidentally by two boys? (One boy, Rene Secretan,confessed in 1956 that he and his brother had known Van Gogh the summer of 1890 and had tormented him mercilessly. He also said they borrowed a gun from the owner of the tavern to play Wild West, but claimed Van Gogh took it from them.)

Now, comes the controversy. You see, dear Reader, at age 37 Van Gogh was lying on his death bed when he said,"Do not accuse anyone,it is I who wanted to kill myself". Naifeh and Smith claim that Van Gogh was depressed and tired of living and he didn't want to implicate the boys for cutting his life short. This proposal has raised much controversy among historians.

So what do you think suicide or homicide?


  1. What an interesting story. I never heard it before... Thanks for posting this!

  2. I hadn't heard of it either. The info the writers dug up and the "confession" of the one person sure makes me wonder if it was homicide. El

  3. What an interesting question. We'll never know. The new version certainly seems plausible, including the explanation for van Gogh's last words. I can imagine he was tormented by the town boys because he was "different", and he was seriously depressed. sz

  4. most interesting...

  5. Fascinating! Gotta share ! Leslie

  6. Great blog! I always thought it was suicide due to the fact he was bi-polar, but now I'm not so sure. Kate