No, I did not change my mind. I still think (feel, too) that the way Naifeh & Smith present the death of Van Gogh is the best hypothesis ever, the most convincing.
But I have to underline a few things:
First, I am convinced that if this godsend accident, this Deus ex machina bullet, shot on a very odd angle and in quite odd place (in their 11 pages Appendix: A Note on Vincent’s fatal wound, which is the place N & S discuss in detail their hypothesis, using all and every source available, it appears clearly that not only the angle and the place of the wound were odd but it is almost certain the bullet was shot FROM A DISTANCE! ) wouldn’t have happen, Vincent would have done it himself, sooner or later that year.
I repeat, Vincent would have done it himself, sooner or later that year. I don’t believe he would have seen another spring.
In a very interesting earlier book on Van Gogh by M.E. TRALBAUT (VAN GOGH, Hachette, 1960) the author (one that I trust, relatively) listed at least 4 possible causes for Vincent to commit suicide:
1. Vincent wanted to free himself (and to free Theo and Jo, at the same time) from the material dependency to Theo; variant: Vincent feared that Theo would discontinue their “contract” (money for paintings&drawings), their partnership, and he would have been without means of existence, in an impossibility to continue painting.
2. The last chance “founding a family” plan for Vincent, failed. The affair he had (nothing 100% certain but very probable) with Marguerite Gachet was stopped by the “good” and “non-conformist” doctor Gachet (not that non-conformist as to give his young daughter in marriage to an artist with mental problems – he was suppose to treat those, was he? – and no revenue other than the stipend from his brother; in a way, as a father, one can understand his point of view…).
In Maurice Pialat movie, Vincent, on his death bed, silently smacks the “good” dr. Gachet in the face! (and the cooling off of his relation with dr. Gachet is evident in his last letters – he lost all hope that the doctor, in Auvers only during the week-ends, usually – could help him in any way and considered the good doctor “even sicker” than himself.)
3. His creative power, after a first (last!) burst of energy in Auvers, the quality of his paintings, the vigor, the originality, were fading away. And what would have been Vincent without his creative power? It is true that his paintings and drawings created in Auvers (at an amazingly impetuous and vertiginous rate) are of unequal quality. Some are great “morceaux de bravoure” picturale, original (original even in comparison with his Arles and Rémy de Provence periods) and stunning. Here are a few samples:
And others, if they are truly painted by Vincent (and not imitations or forgeries in the style of Van Gogh, made either by the old dr. Gachet or by his son Paul; in a very passionate – too passionate? – book entitled: L’Affaire Gachet: L’audace des bandits, Benoît Landais brings strong arguments to that effect… we’ll talk some more about his book later…) which could be considered, at most, studies, unfinished works, “des études ratées”… Most of them aren’t signed which could be very significant, one way or another… Here are some awful samples of those:
4. Finally, last but not least, Vincent would have feared a new madness attack. The last days of July before his “suicide” were, truly, extremely stressful. His intempestive visit to Theo & Jo, in Paris, didn’t go well AT ALL (how could it? Theo and Jo were already high strung because of little Vincent sickness, probably they quarreled a lot for other reasons too…one was, for sure, the money for Vincent, so Vincent himself, not the “paramount of tact and discretion”, was the last thing they needed to “calm down” !).
Harsh words were no doubt exchanged and all the above reasons (and probably others that only Vincent knew) could have triggered a new psychotic episode in a more healthy, normal, person…
M.E. Tralbaut lists all these as possible individual causes for Vincent’s “suicide” (he is just resuming the most important, already present in the Van Gogh bibliography, quite impressive even in the 60 ties).
In my humble opinion, ALL those reasons to kill himself (and some we don’t know about, more darker and sordid, maybe) would have inevitably end up in a real deal, effective, suicide. Probably by drowning (a method he mentions in a letter or two and that Sien, the only woman he lived with, used to end her miserable life years later…)
Considering how he hated cold weather and how puny, claustrophobic and depressing his last room was at the Ravoux inn,
adding all the serious reasons to end it enumerated above, my bet would be that, even if he wouldn’t have “been suicided” by the trigger happy René Sécretan and his defective revolver, Vincent would have died by his own hand before the spring…
But this is speculation, of course. And that’s what everybody does, doesn’t it? The only difference is that some, like Naifeh and Smith, diligently make their homework…
Note. Sorry for the quality of the reproductions. They are there just to prove my point and I hope nobody will sue me for copyright infringement… But, at least, the text is mine (and not in public domain, yet…)