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New book, '60 Minutes' question if Van Gogh really killed himself

October 13, 2011 |  5:22 pm

Vincent Van Gogh 1888 self-portrait (detail)
Having won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for biography for “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga,” Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith will be back in bookstores on Tuesday with “Van Gogh: The Life.”

Their 976-page biography and a report on "60 Minutes" question the accepted story that Van Gogh went into the fields at Auvers-sur-Oise, France, on the evening of July 27, 1890, took out a revolver and shot himself in the chest. History says that he returned under his own power to an inn, and died early in the morning of July 29 with his brother, Theo, at his side.

Their revisionist findings that someone else shot Van Gogh will be the crux of a segment Sunday evening on CBS' "60 Minutes" that reporter Morley Safer assures us (in a promo on the "60 Minutes" website) will give “startling new answers that may well upend art history.”

According to CBS, Naifeh and Smith began with skepticism over whether Van Gogh could have covered more than a mile on his own after sustaining a fatal wound, and wondered how a man known to be mentally ill could have obtained a gun in the first place. 

The Andrew Nurnberg Literary Agency, representing the book in Europe, says on its website that the co-authors enjoyed “unique access to thousands of family letters” as well as the cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, while deploying a team of more than 20 researchers and translators.

Naifeh and Smith have a track record in violent death as well as art: their credits as co-authors include “Final Justice,” about the late 1970s murder trial of a Texas tycoon, and “The Mormon Murders,” about a fatal 1985 pipe bombing in Salt Lake City.

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-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Vincent Van Gogh, 1888 self-portrait (detail). Credit: Royal Academy of Arts/Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

 


 
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