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A Famous Suicide

by Kiana McDonough

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Vincent Van Gogh was known for his paintings, his severed ear, and his mysterious suicide. Van Gogh was born on March 30th, 1853 in the village of Zundert, Netherlands. Vincent left secondary school and at the age of 16. He started an apprenticeship when his uncle found him a job with international art company, Goupil & Cie, where his brother Theo also worked. Vincent eventually got let go from the job. He started moving around Europe to try and start his career, but with no luck he moved back in with his parents. 

Theo became the manager of Gropil & Cie and supported Vincent. In return, the artist sent his brother paintings to sell in Paris. As his paintings started to progress, Vincent’s mental health began to decline. In 1888, Vincent severed his own ear off after a fight with Paul Gauguin, and gradually struggled with his mental health. Eventually, he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in May of 1889. In this hospital is where Van Gogh created some of his most famous paintings, such as Starry Night and Irises. In May of 1890, he left the hospital and returned to Paris, with the support of his brother. 

On July 27th, 1890 Vincent left the Ravoux with his easel and art supplies. When he returned, none of the art supplies were with him, and stumbled upstairs to his bedroom. Gustave Ravoux, the owner of the inn checked on Van Gogh asking him what was the matter. When Vincent replied with “I wounded myself”, he lifted his shirt to reveal a bullet hole under his ribs. Van Gogh’s life ended just after midnight on July 29th.

Two biographers; Steven Naifeh, and Gregory White Smith suggest in their book, Van Gogh: The Life, that Vincent was murdered by some local boys. One of which would come forward as Rene Secretan. In 1890, the year Vincent passed away, Rene would have been 16. A year earlier, Rene attended a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Paris, and when he returned he had a full cowboy costume including a .380 caliber pistol.  Rene and his friends enjoyed hunting, fishing, and causing outdoor mischief. One person specifically the boys would terrorize would be none other than Van Gogh.

Naifeh and Smith uncovered that no autopsy was performed on the artist, but found that the doctors who attended Vincent’s bedside before he died noted that the angle at which the bullet entered his abdomen was not straight on, as one would expect from such a close range as in a suicide, and the fact that the bullet never came out of his body. Some also question the lack of a suicide note, and why Van Gogh would take all of his art supplies just to commit suicide.

It has been 129 years since this tragic incident happened. Whether Van Gogh shot himself, or he really was killed by Rene, the lack of evidence that supports each theory only leads to confusion. With that being said, it now leaves us wondering what really happened to Vincent Van Gogh.

Categories: Uncategorized

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