Vincent Van Gogh: Murder or Suicide?

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For over one hundred years, most have believed that Vincent Van Gogh, the famous painter, committed suicide at age 37.

On July 29th, 1890 Van Gogh left his lodgings in Auvers, Paris and went to a nearby field to paint, bringing all of his art supplies with him. That night when he returned, there was a bullet wound in his abdomen. After saying multiple times that it was self-inflicted, and that he shot himself, he lay for 20 hours, dying slowly. Recent discoveries could prove that the notion that he killed himself is wrong.

Vincent Van Gogh’s life was plagued by mental illness. Most famously known for cutting off his ear and giving it as a present to a prostitute, Van Gogh painted his best artwork while staying at an asylum, recovering from his crippling mental illness. Because of his background of mental instability, including his statement after he was shot, “I wounded myself”, it has always been assumed that he committed suicide.

For all we know, he could’ve killed himself, but the evidence of the suicide is confusing. He was shot in the abdomen, and upon arriving back to his lodgings, he succumbed to death after 20 hours of suffering. Why would a suicidal man shoot himself in the abdomen, forcing himself to a long, painful death? His painting supplies, which he had brought with him, were never discovered. Most importantly, nobody knows where he could’ve gotten the gun from, and it was never recovered in the field. As well as not finding the gun, it would’ve been extremely hard to shoot himself at the angle of the wound. On top of this evidence, we know Van Gogh was a religious man, and had previously said that suicide was a sin. What changed him?

There are multiple theories as to what may have happened. It could’ve been a robbery gone wrong, which would explain the painting supplies. The most popular theory is that he was shot accidentally by a sixteen year old boy.

Historians say that Gaston and René Secrétan could’ve been to blame. Before Van Gogh’s death, René was considered a bully, modeling his tactics after Wild Bill Cody, even going as far as getting a costume and an old, small- caliber pistol. It was widely known that René didn’t like Van Gogh, since he was a loud, drunk Dutchman, and he often teased and mocked Van Gogh. There is a chance that René could’ve followed him to the field, might have mocked him, and the gun misfired.

 

Since Van Gogh openly said that he had shot himself, it wasn’t immediately assumed that he was murdered. Now, many believe he said he was the one who shot the gun to protect René, since he was young and vulnerable. In the 1930’s, an investigator visited Auvers, and found a rumor that Van Gogh was in fact killed by young boys, but nobody ever came forward.

Van Gogh on his deathbed

This mystery will remain disputed for centuries to come.

What do you think happened? Do you think the mentally ill Van Gogh killed himself in the field that day, or do you think he was just trying to protect the sixteen year old boy who accidentally shot him, sealing his fate?

The Mystery of Vincent Van Gogh’s Death