Van Gogh's Ear

by

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780374279691
  • 9780374716028

The best-known and most sensational event in Vincent van Gogh’s life is also the least understood. For more than a century, biographers and historians seeking definitive facts about what happened on a December night in Arles have unearthed more questions than answers. Why would an artist at the height of his powers commit such a brutal act? Who was the mysterious “Rachel” to whom he presented his macabre gift? Did he use a razor or a knife? Was it just a segment—or did Van Gogh really lop off his entire ear?

In Van Gogh’s Ear, Bernadette Murphy reveals, for the first time, the true story of this long-misunderstood incident, sweeping away decades of myth and giving us a glimpse of a troubled but brilliant artist at his breaking point. Murphy’s detective work takes her from Europe to the United States and back, from the holdings of major museums to the moldering contents of forgotten archives. She braids together her own thrilling journey of discovery with a narrative of Van Gogh’s life in Arles, the sleepy Provençal town where he created his finest work, and vividly reconstructs the world in which he moved—the madams and prostitutes, café patrons and police inspectors, shepherds and bohemian artists. We encounter Van Gogh’s brother and benefactor Theo, his guest and fellow painter Paul Gauguin, and many local subjects of Van Gogh’s paintings, some of whom Murphy identifies for the first time. Strikingly, Murphy uncovers previously unknown information about “Rachel”—and uses it to propose a bold new hypothesis about what was occurring in Van Gogh’s heart and mind as he made a mysterious delivery to her doorstep.

As it reopens one of art history’s most famous cold cases, Van Gogh’s Ear becomes a fascinating work of detection. It is also a study of a painter creating his most iconic and revolutionary work, pushing himself ever closer to greatness even as he edged toward madness—and one fateful sweep of the blade that would resonate through the ages.

  • Farrar, Straus and Giroux; July 2016
  • ISBN 9780374716028
  • Read online, or download in secure EPUB format
  • Title: Van Gogh's Ear
  • Author: Bernadette Murphy
  • Imprint: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780374279691
  • 9780374716028

In The Press

"Bernadette Murphy is an indefatigable researcher and compelling storyteller. She casts dramatic new light on one of history's most famous episodes of self-harm, neatly and convincingly skewering many long-held myths and forcing us to reappraise what we know of Van Gogh's life." —Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome and Leonardo's Last Supper

About The Author

Bernadette Murphy was born and raised in the U.K. She has lived in the south of France for most of her adult life and worked in many different fields. Van Gogh’s Ear is her first book.

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780374279691
  • 9780374716028