Museum unconvinced by Van Gogh death theory

Two American authors believe Vincent van Gogh was fatally shot by two teenagers and did not die from self-inflicted wounds, but the new theory won a skeptical reception from experts at the museum dedicated to the 19th century Dutch master.

A book by Pulitzer prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, "Van Gogh, The Life," concludes that Van Gogh, who suffered chronic depression, claimed on his deathbed to have shot himself to protect the boys.



"Covering up his own murder," said Naifeh in an interview broadcast Sunday on the US network CBS's "60 Minutes."



Leo Jansen, curator of the Van Gogh Museum and editor of the artist's letters, said the biography is a "great book," but experts have doubts about the authors' theory of his death in 1890.



"We cannot yet agree with their conclusions because we do not think there is enough evidence yet," Jansen told The Associated Press.



At the same time, there has never been any independent evidence to support Van Gogh's dying confession that he had shot himself.



"There's no proof. We just know what he said, and that's what people always went by," Jansen said.



Severely wounded in the chest, Van Gogh dragged himself to the rooming house in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, where he was staying. He died about 30 hours later after telling his brother Theo, several doctors and the police that he had shot himself while painting in a wheat field. The gun was never found.



Naifeh and Smith revived unanswered questions that have clouded Van Gogh's own story: How did the painter, who had a widely known history of mental illness, obtain a revolver, and what happened to it? Why would he shoot himself at such an odd angle and not put the muzzle next to his heart? How did he manage with his wound to make the difficult journey more than one mile (2 kilometers) through the fields back to town? And what happened to his painting gear?



The authors say an art historian who visited Auvers in the 1930s heard rumors from citizens who were alive in 1890 that Van Gogh had been shot accidentally by two boys.



They also discovered a "guilt-ridden" 1956 interview by a wealthy French businessman, Rene Secretan, who said he and his brother had known Van Gogh that summer and had tormented him mercilessly. Secretan, inspired by a Wild West show that was popular in France, borrowed a gun from the owner of the inn where Van Gogh was staying, but he claimed the artist stole it from him.



Secretan recalled in the interview that they taunted Van Gogh, a lonely man who craved company, by putting salt in his coffee and getting their girl friends to tease him with fake seductions. But the authors say Secretan was never asked if he had been involved in the shooting, and he died the following year.



Naifeh said the evidence indicates that the shooting "involved these two boys. And that it was either an accident or a deliberate act. Was it playing cowboy in some way that went awry? Was it teasing with the gun with Vincent lunging out? It's hard to know what went on at that moment."



They theorize that Van Gogh was wounded in a farm yard closer to the inn, and that the boys fled with the gun and took the artist's materials when they fled. Van Gogh, suffering from bouts of temporal lobe epilepsy, "decided to basically protect them and accept this as the way to die. These kids had basically done him the favor of, of shooting him," said Naifeh.



Jansen said the authors' theory still had problems, including the unlikely idea that Van Gogh would lie about his attempted suicide. Although he acknowledged in his letters that he was tired of living, he considered suicide immoral and indecent. It was also a criminal offense, and survivors could be imprisoned.



"There's plenty of reason to look at the unclear circumstances again. It's just that their conclusion, in our opinion, is not yet sufficiently proven," Jansen said.



Van Gogh was 37 when he died. He had been painting for only 10 years, but had produced nearly 1,000 paintings and 1,100 drawings. None were sold in his lifetime, but they now command multi-million dollar prices on the rare occasions they come up for auction.



AP

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
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
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
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.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map