New book casts doubt on theory of Van Gogh suicide

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He is one of the biggest names in art history, while his story is one of the most tragic. However, a new book to be published next week will set out to prove that the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh did not, in fact, commit suicide.

Van Gogh: The Life, published in Britain on Monday and trailed in the US tomorrow night in an episode of the news show 60 Minutes, is the result of 10 years of research by its authors, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. The pair's biography of the US artist Jackson Pollock was honoured with a Pulitzer Prize in 1991.

All copies of the book have been shipped out under strict embargo, but news leaked out yesterday evening as CBS began promoting the show.

The Independent can reveal the authors believe Van Gogh died because of a shooting accident. CBS claims the revelations could "rewrite art history". Van Gogh, a Dutch Post-Impressionist who died in 1890 aged 37, suffered from anxiety and mental illness throughout his life. Popular opinion is that, on the morning of 27 July, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver in the countryside outside Paris, dying from his wounds two days later.

However Naifeh and White Smith claim to have uncovered new evidence which suggests his death was at the hands of two local boys and involved a malfunctioning pistol.

CBS says the writers arrived at their conclusions by asking questions such as: "Could Van Gogh have inflicted a painful wound and still walked over a mile on difficult terrain?"