IT IS ONE of the art world's most-gripping mysteries: the dastardly murder of Vincent van Gogh and the ensuing cover-up. The iconic artist's death at age 37 in 1890 is the biggest cold case in the annals of art history. I continue to explore the key questions that Time magazine asked in its Oct. 31, 2011, cover story: "Who killed Vincent van Gogh?" and "Was Van Gogh's death really a suicide?" I am attempting to answer both questions by adding 21st-century forensic analysis to the limited facts of the 19th-century investigation: a description of the wound, medical assessments, and stories of the vigil at Van Gogh's deathbed.
I believe that this new forensic analysis demonstrates the impossibility of Van Gogh self-inflicting his fatal wound--even though the tale that he committed suicide has been widespread and falsely promoted for more than 100 years. Instead, according to my research, he was murdered on July 27, 1890, in the bucolic village of Auvers-sur-Oise, France, 20 miles outside of Paris.
This research is not meant as an academic treatise or dissertation, laden with documentation. Rather, it is an attempt to seek the truth of what really happened on the day Van Gogh was mortally wounded, and to connect all the dots and fill in gaps between them.
I am not an art historian, an artist, a curator, or an art critic. I am not involved with any museum or anyone who owns a Van Gogh painting. I have "no skin in the game," as they say. I do not want to look at Van Gogh's art to try to diagnose his medical problems, determine his mental state, or try to speculate about what actually was going on in his brilliant mind at the time. Trying to understand the mindset of a fascinating historical figure and genius such as Van Gogh is impossible. The literature on Van Gogh is replete with many such attempts made over the years, and no one has yet to succeed.
Rather, I want to unravel the mysteries surrounding his death, investigate it as a probable murder, and try to determine why this icon of 19th-century art was murdered.
When I started the project, I never believed that Van Gogh committed suicide, but I devoted myself to exploring all of the possibilities from the beginning and from every angle. I undertook this research without any bias. However, as I progressed deeper into the circumstances surrounding his death, I became increasingly certain he did not commit suicide, and indeed became sure of this fact once I was able to assess my new forensic...