With New ‘Who Shot Van Gogh?’ Theory, Eponymous Museum Says It’s Still ‘Premature to Rule Out Suicide’

The art world has been operating like a Dallas cliffhanger this week with the publication of Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith‘s book, Van Gogh, The Life, which has left people wondering, “Who really shot Van Gogh?” The book posits that the shot that ultimately killed him was delivered by the hands of two teenage boys, not from a suicide attempt by the artist himself as has long been presumed (helped along because that’s what Van Gogh told everyone before his death). The authors have stirred up something of a controversy by introducing this new theory, claiming that the shooting was either an accident or an intentional act and that the artist simply didn’t want to see the boys punished. Given Van Gogh’s posthumous legacy, with his name now synonymous with “great art” and his paintings now selling in the millions, it’s just the sort of theory that commands attention and helps to sell books. Case in point, 60 Minutes even dedicated a whole feature to it this past Sunday. However, the organization who perhaps knows the artist best, the Amsterdam-based Van Gogh Museum, isn’t quite ready to update all of their information just yet. In a post on the museum’s site, they agree that the book poses an interesting theory, but raising a few issues they have with the theory, state that “plenty of questions remain unanswered” and that “it would be premature to rule out suicide as the cause of death.”