Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Everything You Learned in 4th Grade Art Class Is Wrong

Take the conspiracy theory method used in Holy Blood Holy Grail, and Dan Brown's novels that used it as a jumping off point, apply it to the art world and BOOM - you've got a wonderful little controversy to sell.

We all know the legend of how the brilliant painter Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear in an act of romantic (or something like it) desperation. Two German researchers are now claiming it was all a made-up story to keep the real mutilator - visiting fellow artist Paul Gaugin - out of jail. They're selling a new book that lays out the theory, In Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence.

This one just started hitting the web a few hours ago, and it's already getting slammed by Bloomberg's Martin Gayford:
In a gripping passage, Gauguin describes how he left Van Gogh’s house that fateful evening after an argument. While crossing the square outside, he heard “a well-known step, short, quick, irregular. I turned about on the instant, as Vincent rushed forward toward me, an open razor in his hand.” Gauguin claimed he quelled the madman with a glance.

Many have doubted that happened; it may be a story Gauguin invented to absolve himself from the guilt of having deserted his poor friend. That’s plausible. But to suggest that the glittering blade was actually in Gauguin’s own hand, and that he used it on Van Gogh’s ear is a leap into wild conjecture.

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