Sunday, July 29, 2012

Did Van Gogh Cover Up For His Own Killers?

On the 123rd anniversary of the death of Vincent van Gogh, CBS's 60 Minutes re-aired this engrossing segment (originally aired in 2011), in which Morley Safer reveals some astonishing, little-known facts about the troubled life and mysterious death of the world's most famous painter. The linchpin of Safer's report is the meticulously researched book Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, the Pulitzer prize-winning authors of Jackson Pollock: An American Saga

One of the most surprising revelations is that Van Gogh didn't commit suicide as commonly thought, but may have been shot by a couple of boys who had been tormenting him.

"Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of previously untapped materials. While drawing liberally from the artist’s famously eloquent letters, they have also delved into hundreds of unpublished family correspondences, illuminating with poignancy the wanderings of Van Gogh’s troubled, restless soul. Naifeh and Smith bring a crucial understanding to the larger-than-life mythology of this great artist—his early struggles to find his place in the world; his intense relationship with his brother Theo; his impetus for turning to brush and canvas; and his move to Provence, where in a brief burst of incandescent productivity he painted some of the best-loved works in Western art.

The authors also shed new light on many unexplored aspects of Van Gogh’s inner world: his deep immersion in literature and art; his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; and his bouts of depression and mental illness.

Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, and though the broad outlines of his tragedy have long inhabited popular culture, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius whose signature images of sunflowers and starry nights have won a permanent place in the human imagination."

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