Sunday, July 27, 2008
On This Day...
On Sunday, 27 July 1890, sometime around dusk, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the lower chest, in a wheatfield at Auvers-sur-Oise. He managed to stumble back to the Auberge Ravoux,the inn where he'd been staying since late May; the owners discovered what had happened and sent for a doctor. As far as events can be reconstructed, Dr. Gachet and the village doctor, Dr. Mazery, both examined Vincent and determined nothing could be done. Vincent died around 1 am on Tuesday 29 July. Thankfully, he did not die alone: Theo was summoned from Paris and stayed with his brother for the last twelve hours or so of his life.
The details of what happened differ among various accounts. Theo's letters to his family and artist Émile Bernard's letter to art-critic Albert Aurier are our best sources of information from the time. Much later, in the 1950s, Adeline Ravoux, daughter of the man who owned the then-Auberge de la Mairie, recounted her memories of Vincent's stay and of his death. But her account seems biased: she obviously did not like the Gachet family. According to her account (for example), her father's telegram summoned Theo, but Theo wrote to his family that Dr. Gachet sent him a note. Similarly biased is the account given by Dr. Gachet's son, Paul Gachet fils, in the years after his father's death. Paul Gachet fils claimed, for example, to have sat with Vincent until Theo's arrival, but this does not seem to be true.
What no source tells us--because no one knew--is why Vincent chose to take his life. That secret died with him.