a new book is making a shocking claim that Vincent van Gogh might did not commit suicide in 1898 but was in fact killed by a local boy named Rene Secretan. In “Van Gogh: The Life,” Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith suggest that van Gogh was shot by Secretan and then lied to protect the boy.
The death of van Gogh at 37 was never viewed as controversial. He was highly unstable — as evidenced by his cutting off his own ear. Before he died, he was asked if he had shot himself in an suicide and he responded “Yes I believe so.”
Yet, the statement admittedly seems a bit awkward though van Gogh had just staggered from a field with a chest wound and staggered a long distance into the town of Auvers. He died the next day.
What is most provocative is the fact that van Gogh had taken his paint and canvas into the field to paint. It did not seem the act of a suicidal man and he left no suicide note. The 16-year-old boy lived next door and had helped van Gogh get alcohol — though he was also known to taunt and make fun of him.
I have to confess that I remain skeptical, though I have not read the 900-page book. Suicidal people are often unstable (with some exceptions of course). Van Gogh was infamous for his violent and unpredictable nature. His acting without a note seems perfectly inconsistent.
Nevertheless, I do find it strange is his walking a mile to the town. If he could walk, one would think he would finish himself off. I also find a chest wound to be a rare location for a suicidal wound.
I am a huge fan of van Gogh’s paintings. Yet, he is the prototypical example of how brilliance and insanity often walk hand in hand.