Vincent Van Gogh has enriched the lives of countless people around the world with his art since his death in 1890, but to most, the man himself remains largely a mystery. If asked, a lot of people would say that the most well-known thing about him is the fact that he cut off his own ear to send to a woman. When the clearly troubled artist reportedly admitted to shooting himself in a wheat field just hours before he succumbed to his wounds, the cause of his death was documented as such, but a doctor and expert on gunshot wounds now says that he doesn’t believe Van Gogh turned the gun on himself.
Dr. Vincent Di Maio says that if the artist had committed suicide, there would have been powder or soot residue on his hands; a lack of it would indicate that the gun was further away than he could have gotten it himself.
“These would have been grossly evident. None of this is described [in any of the forensic accounts]. This indicates the muzzle was more than a foot or two away (closer to two rather than one). It is my opinion that, in all medical probability, the wound incurred by Van Gogh was not self-inflicted. In other words, he did not shoot himself,” Di Maio says.
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith say that Van Gogh may have been shot by accident by a pair of boys in that field, and chose to protect them by admitting to attempted suicide.
A curator at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has said that it would have been in the artist’s character to take the blame for the shooting, especially if it was an accident.
“I think it would be like Vincent to protect the boys and take the ‘accident’ as an unexpected way out of his burdened life. But I think the biggest problem you’ll find after publishing your theory is that the suicide is more or less printed in the brains of past and present generations and has become a sort of self-evident truth. Vincent’s suicide has become the grand finale of the story of the martyr for art, it’s his crown of thorns,” the curator said.