3 out of 4 stars
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Known as one of the most influential artists in the Western world, Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter and a leading figure of the Post-Impressionism French art movement. A prolific artist, he completed approximately 2,100 art pieces, counting 900 oil paintings and 1,100 sketches and drawings. Among his most famous oil paintings are The Starry Night (1889), Café Terrace at Night (1888), Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889), and The Potato Eaters (1885). But artists, art historians, and people, in general, have not only being attracted to Vincent's vibrant color palette, hidden symbolism, and emotional, dramatic brushstrokes but also his turbulent and eccentric life. His life was so tempestuous that Vincent has gone down in history as a madman and a genius who committed suicide by shooting himself in the abdomen. Most experts believe this suicide narrative, but recent research indicates that someone murdered the painter.
In Killing Vincent: The Man, The Myth, and The Murder, Dr. Irving Kaufman Arenberg argues that Vincent van Gogh did not commit suicide, and he was murdered in the pleasant town of Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Vincent lived his last 70 days in this town after his discharge from an asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where he was a patient for a year. According to the author, Vincent came out of the asylum cured of his health issues; therefore, his last 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise were "his calmest, most peaceful, and most productive time." Also, the author believes that Vincent found love with the daughter of Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, the doctor taking care of him during that period. For these reasons, it is not likely that Vincent ended his life. Besides, the author provides modern forensic evidence that does not support the suicide narrative that has been accepted as an evident truth for 129 years. So, who did it and why?
I chose to read this book because I love the study of humanities and historical mysteries. I knew notably about Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces but little about his life and death. After reading this fascinating book, I gained a comprehensive understanding of his life, work, and death. I learned about Vincent's painting periods, his unhappy childhood, his relationship with his brother Theo, his failed romantic relationships, his mental and physical conditions, and his career. More than that, the author convinced me of Vincent's death being a murder rather than a suicide with his extensive and detailed research.
Dr. Arenberg made a detailed analysis of Vincent's last 70 days. He discussed thoroughly all of the individuals involved in the painter's life at the time, like his brother Theo, Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, and Marguerite Gachet. Dr. Arenberg brought up the noteworthy testimonies of Adeline Ravoux, Madame Liberge, and Giselle Baize. He presented the reader with the possible suspects of the murder, like Paul Gachet Jr. and the Secrétan brothers. He explained which could have been their motives and which weapons they could have used. On top of all that, the author reenacted the murder scene with modern forensics. My favorite part about reading this book was my astonishment when I read the forensic evidence that supports the theory of murder. At that moment, I thought that the appropriate authorities need to do an exhumation of Vincent's body to confirm that someone murdered him.
I believe that Dr. Arenberg has made a significant contribution to the art and history worlds with this book. However, the book needs some improvements. It requires further editing, as I found more than 10 grammatical errors, mostly consisting of incorrect punctuation and spacing between words. The font size of the letters is too small for my taste. The book is long, and the small font size made it feel longer. Readers with eyesight problems might find the font size to be a challenge. In addition to the editing and font size, I thought that the author's writing style is repetitive. The repetition of facts, like the identity of the suspects and whether or not Vincent was carrying his painting materials the day he was mortally wounded, was unnecessary. In other words, I think the book could have been shorter.
For the reasons explained above, I rate Killing Vincent: The Man, The Myth, and The Murder by Dr. Irving Kaufman Arenberg 3 out of 4 stars. The book is an outstanding piece of immaculate research on Vincent van Gogh's life and death despite the enhancements it needs. I seriously recommend it to art historians, artists, historians, art and history fanatics, and those who enjoy reading about intriguing historical mysteries. I am hooked on this mystery, and I hope the authorities allow forensic archaeologists to dig up and examine Vincent van Gogh's body.
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