New biography: 'Van Gogh, The life'

Van Gogh: the Life - Random House17 October 2011

Today a new biography was released: Van Gogh, The life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. It's the product of ten years of research and writing.

The authors studied all the available documents relating to Van Gogh, as well as the relevant literature and archives. They also frequently consulted with Van Gogh specialists around the world. As a leading centre of expertise, the Van Gogh Museum made a major contribution to this project. Furthermore, two of its staff members provided comments on the first draft of the manuscript.

Intriguing new perspectives
The publication of this biography represents a major contribution to our understanding of Vincent van Gogh's life and work, with intriguing new perspectives.
The biography offers an original point of view on the life, character, and motivations of Vincent van Gogh. The authors also propose a new explanation of the cause of Van Gogh's death, suggesting that it was manslaughter or murder, rather than suicide as previously thought.

Not a suicide, but a killing?
After analysing and interpreting all the known facts about Van Gogh's death, Naifeh and Smith conclude that the bullet which ended Van Gogh's life was not shot by the artist himself, but by somebody else. Until now, it was generally assumed that Van Gogh had committed suicide; in fact, his was one of the most legendary suicides in art history.
Leo Jansen, a curator at the Van Gogh Museum, comments, 'Obviously, this is a dramatic new claim about the cause of Van Gogh's death that will generate a great deal of discussion. There have always been unresolved issues surrounding Van Gogh's suicide, including such fundamental issues as the place of the incident and why Van Gogh decided to commit suicide just then. What is more, the gun was never found. Naifeh and Smith re-evaluate the known facts and present the hypothesis that two boys were involved in a mysterious incident that led to the fatal shot. This is an intriguing interpretation, but plenty of questions remain unanswered; for example, Naifeh and Smith suggest that the perpetrator(s) made off with Van Gogh's painting materials after the incident, but that would only have raised suspicions. The Van Gogh Museum therefore believes that, all things considered, it would be premature to rule out suicide as the cause of death.'

Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh en Gregory White Smith, Random House, $40.00, ISBN: 978-0-375-50748-9

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