Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers to speak he to be shot by a man referred to as René Secrétan.

You are watching: How did vincent van gogh died

Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, November 7, 2014


The troubled life and demise of Vincent valve Gogh adheres to a well-known trajectory: the precocious genius, the arts world’s indifference, the start of angst and also madness, and also then, tragically, his suicide at age 37.

Or so us thought. But according come the groundbreaking study of Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Steven Naifeh and also Gregory White Smith, the painter didn’t shoot himself: he was killed. When they first exposed this theory in your 2011 biography Van Gogh: The Life, it to be viciously attacked and contested. Rewriting background is not straightforward task.

Now, in a thrilling short article published in the December problem of Vanity Fair, the authors substantiate also further your controversial theory, which obstacles the deep-seated assumptions about the (now) revered netherlands artist.

According to Naifeh and also White Smith’s research, valve Gogh to be shot by chance by a man called René Secrétan, who damaged a lifetime of silence after see Vicente Minnelli’s van Gogh biopic Lust for Life (1956), in which the artist is portrayed as killing himself in the woods surrounding the French city of Auvers, just outside Paris.

Secrétan confessed he had led a gang of teenage hooligans who took pleasure in getting drunk and bullying the tortured artist. Return he never ever admitted to having shot van Gogh, Secrétan did declare that he used to dress up as Buffalo Bill and also brandish a malfunctioning pistol he obtained from the goalkeeper of the Ravoux Inn, whereby the painter lived.

According to Naifeh and also White Smith, two days before van Gogh’s death (July 29, 1890), a stray cartridge shot indigenous afar struggle the painter in the abdomen while the was out in the areas of Auvers. Due to the fact that it didn’t struggle his critical organs, it took over 29 agonizing hrs to death him.

None of the reports of his death cite the word suicide, just that he had “wounded himself.” no one admitted come having discovered the gun, and also the doctors can not really make feeling of his wounds.


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(1890). Courtesy the the Neue Pinakothek, Munich." width="600" height="428" srcset="https://buzzpatterson.com/how-did-vincent-van-gogh-died/imager_1_13385_700.jpg 600w, https://buzzpatterson.com/app/buzzpatterson.com-upload/2014/11/Vincent-Van-Gogh-Auvers-300x214.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" />

Vincent van Gogh, Plain near Auvers (1890). Courtesy that the Neue Pinakothek, Munich.


A couple of days prior to the shooting, valve Gogh had placed a huge order the paints, and also on the morning of the work he died, he had sent an upbeat letter to his brother Theo, with an hopeful take on the future. Crucially, no suicide keep in mind was ever before found.

Why go the suicide version take together a strong hold, then? Well, it simply listed a an ext logical narrative. Van Gogh’s earlobe episode, which had actually happened 2 years earlier, to add his history of nervous breakdowns and alcoholism, made him the perfect artist maudit: a troubled, unpredictable, erratic genius.

Even friend of the artist, such as the painter Émile Bernard, preferred to sensationalize van Gogh’s exploits. “My finest friend, my dear Vincent, is mad,” that told an art doubter in 1889. “Since ns have found out, ns am virtually mad myself.”

The police investigated the death, yet according to Naifeh and White Smith, no documents survive. The self-destruction rumors, thus, noted a “better story,” and gained momentum throughout the 20th century through the sheer force of hearsay.

The version that Naifeh and also White Smith provide doesn’t alter the fact that van Gogh had a tragic and also premature death that could have to be avoided. However it mirrors us a brand-new picture that the painter: the photo of someone with hopes, who believed in his art, and who passed away by accident. If just he could have seen exactly how his paints would concerned be regarded.

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