Did Vincent van Gogh commit suicide or was Dutch painter killed by an acquaintance?

Research experts reject claim in biography that artist was murdered by 16-year-old schoolboy

Arts Correspondent

The mystery surrounding Vincent van Gogh’s death has taken another twist after two experts disputed a recent biography that suggested he did not commit suicide but instead was killed by an acquaintance.

The Dutch painter was widely believed to have shot himself at the age of 37, even confessing it on his deathbed. Yet Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith made the shock claim that he had been shot, possibly accidentally, by a 16-year-old schoolboy.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors made the claim in Van Gogh: The Life, a 960-page biography released in October 2011. At the time of publication, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said the theory was “dramatic” and “intriguing” but added that “plenty of questions remained unanswered.”

Two research experts from the museum were set on the trail of exploring the claims, however, and have no published their findings that the shocking theory of manslaughter, or even murder, simply does not add up.

In an article in the Burlington Magazine, Louis van Tilborgh and Teio Meendendorp said the train of events suggesting suicide “is eminently defensible, both psychologically and historically”.

They pointed to the nature of the bullet wound, relations with his brother Theo, as well as a letter found in his pocket – which the biography failed to cover – as helping prove his suicide. They also added that it was plausible Van Gogh wanted to commit suicide, which the biographers dispute.

They wrote: “Seen from the perspective that is neglected in this biography, namely Van Gogh’s own view of his life, suicide is so much more plausible than the chance squabble with fatal consequences.”

 Van Gogh died in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise where he was painting the wheat fields. He sustained a gunshot injury to his abdomen while out in those fields before dying in an inn two days later. On his death bed he revealed he had shot himself.

Van Gogh The Life Van Gogh The Life The biography was compiled after 10 years of study by its authors and aired a startling theory. Mr Naifeh said: “The accepted understanding of what happened in Auvers among the people who knew him was that he was killed accidentally by a couple of boys and he decided to protect them by accepting the blame.” American academic John Rewald had talked of hearing local rumours about such a theory in the 1930s.

The biographers pointed to Gaston and Rene Secretan, students at a Paris lycee, as responsible. Renee was interviewed in 1957 about the artist and revealed that he owned a pistol that Van Gogh may have taken. The authors of the recent article said the interview, which the biography relied on heavily, did not substantiate the claims “in the slightest”.

The experts from the Van Gogh Museum said: “Truly nothing substantiates their argument for the train of events they construe, apart from a twentieth-century rumour arising from an authentic story of a trigger-happy brat in 1890, who merely claimed that Van Gogh probably stole the gun from him. And we do not doubt that for a moment.”

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy