Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Van Gogh's Death

When I visited Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum last fall, I wondered if this account of Vincent's death mightn't have gained some traction.

"Do I not look 'upbeat'?"

Answer: nope, not one iota.

This is the Vanity Fair piece. If VF's "Hardy Boys" narrative bugs you, consult Naifeh/Smith's recent biography for a more authoritative accumulation of detail and arcana, presented in measured tones. You'll find this (as presented) plausible and even likely "alternative" account in an appendix, buried beneath 900+ pages of the rest of Vincent's troubled life.

I can't recall if the Museum's gift shop was selling Naifeh/Smith's bio (I can't imagine they weren't -- it has the authority of heft, if nothing else). But I would have thought the museum's curators would have been keen to add their own footnote to their public narrative (note how, at the conclusion of the VF piece, one curator concedes the scenario's plausibility).

When it comes to capturing the public imagination, it seems nothing succeeds like suicide.

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