Back in 2011, a pair of biographers argued that the accepted theory of Vincent Van Gogh's death may have been wrong. He didn't commit suicide, they suggested; instead, it was a local teen who killed him. Their theory was met with some serious pushback, but they stand behind it, and they're offering more evidence in Vanity Fair. The article, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, notes scant evidence in favor of a suicide: Why, for instance, would a suicidal person shoot himself in the stomach, leading to a long, painful death? What's more, they argue, accounts supporting the suicide theory come from questionable sources, including a girl who was only 13 at the time, and didn't tell her story publicly for decades.
The Vanity Fair piece also focuses on the work of noted forensics expert Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who worked on George Zimmerman's trial. Di Maio finds, based on accounts of Van Gogh's injuries, that the muzzle of the gun that shot the artist "was more than a foot or two away (closer to two rather than one)." He concludes that, "in all medical probability, the wound incurred by Van Gogh was not self-inflicted." So why has the suicide account survived so long? At Artnet, Lorena Muñoz-Alonso suggests it's because it's a good story. His "earlobe episode … plus his history of nervous breakdowns and alcoholism made him the perfect artist maudit: a troubled, unpredictable, erratic genius." (That famous ear, by the way, has been re-created.)