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Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  758 ratings  ·  106 reviews
On a dark night in Provence in December 1888 Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear. It is an act that has come to define him. Yet for more than a century biographers and historians seeking definitive facts about what happened that night have been left with more questions than answers.

In Van Gogh’s Ear Bernadette Murphy sets out to discover exactly what happened that night in
...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published April 7th 2016)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  758 ratings  ·  106 reviews


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MissBecka
The blurb on the book says it is a detective story.
It is not.
The prologue reads like a historical fiction.
Sadly only that one chapter reads that way.
This book falls somewhere between a historical fiction and a documentary?
Whatever you would class it as it did not work.
Her research is extensive and she could have done a wonderful historical fiction judging by the first chapter she created.
She certainly does enough speculating to have accomplished it.
Unfortunately she didn't.
As a result this was
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Carolyn
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book which took seven years of painstaking research to compile. For anyone who has read the many scholarly biographies of Van Gogh, and enjoyed Lust for Life and the Yellow House, it seemed there was nothing new to be learned. The author inserts herself into the story, detailing her meticulous search through dusty archives, genealogical research to learn about the families who touched on the artist's life in Arles, and an interpretation and analysis of his paintings, and ...more
Bettie
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07m8wsz

Description: Rebecca Front reads from Bernadette Murphy's revelatory account of her seven-year mission to solve one of the most infamous and perplexing art mysteries of the nineteenth century.

The period, when Van Gogh injured his ear, has come to define the way the great artist is viewed. Yet there are discrepancies and gaps in the story. In this new book, Bernadette asks what exactly did happen that fateful night? She pieces together the unfolding
...more
Hermien
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing amount of research went into this book. It was well reasoned and very informative
D
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating.
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Rebecca Front reads from Bernadette Murphy's revelatory account of her seven-year mission to solve one of the most infamous and perplexing art mysteries of the nineteenth century.

The period, when Van Gogh injured his ear, has come to define the way the great artist is viewed. Yet there are discrepancies and gaps in the story. In this new book, Bernadette asks what exactly did happen that fateful night? She pieces together the unfolding events, dogged in
...more
Kate Forsyth
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author, Bernadette Murphy, spent seven years trying to discover the truth of what happened that fateful night in Arles. Her own dogged detective work becomes part of the story, so that we follow her research step-by-step. Like any good investigator, she does not believe all that is told to her, but interrogates all the known facts and uncovers many unknown ones. The result is truly fascinating and very readable. This is not a heavy academic biography, but rather a warm, intimate and very ...more
Erin Kelly
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an incredible book. Meticulously researched, wonderfully written.
Laura
I would give this book 3.5 stars, because the research was well done. Vincent Van Gogh created wonderful paintings during his short, heart-breaking life. I like impressionist paintings but I also like Van Gogh's landscapes. The part about that woman who he gave his ear to is interesting.
Wanda
23 JUL 2016 - recommendation through Bettie. Many Thanks!
Laura
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such a well-researched book. What started as a lark by the author ended up being 7+ year investigation into what really happened to Van Gogh's ear. I'm not going to tell you what happened because the book does, and it's fascinating. Bernadette Murphy takes some crazy rabbit trails to find the truth about Van Gogh's ear. Because I love all things Van Gogh and because it was well-written, I give this book 4 1/2 stars.
Karyn
Well researched and well done.
Samira
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2017
Highly interesting and thorough research that refutes the myth around Van Gogh (his madness, his ejection from the Yellow House, and most importantly the cutting of the ear) using reliable evidence. Provides a very nuanced account of his life in Arles and proposes various theories that appear highly probable.

Following Bernadette Murphy on her journey to the truth makes me envy her - how lovely it must be to dedicate years to this research, and encounter such important evidence. I would love to,
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Sandra
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This history of Van Gogh's time in Provence is fascinating and throws new light on his character and his psychiatric problems. Fairly well written but it feels a bit of an amateur "research" project... It took me longer than normal to read as I found the style a little tedious. Overall interesting but promised more than it delivered.
Eric
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There was some interesting things to learn in this book but it was slow and I wanted it to be 100 pages shorter. Interesting things: extent of the injury to Van Gogh's ear, petition and who the women he gave the ear to was.
Amy
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I watched the extraordinary documentary first and had to learn more. I recommend both the book and documentary for a nuanced and sympathetic account of the author's journey to explore the myths and truths of van Gogh's life. 3.5.
Sotiris Makrygiannis
The ostracism of VG from his own village was terrible, the yellow house was his soul. The list of prostitutes not that interesting, but the speculation about the "madness" and what made him like this is rather interesting but not conclusive.
readingpenguin14
A brilliant research by the author, separately the fact from the myth. a real eye opener.

A must read for Van Gogh's fans and art lovers.
Tania
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly engaging read, the author took me back to the time and place of Van Gogh and his life. Enriching and enjoyable
Sharon Terry
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Van Gogh; those interested in art history
I was blown away by the quality of Bernadette Murphy's research into this awful incident in the life of Vincent Van Gogh - now one of the immortals; then (1888-89) an obscure painter, disliked by many of the townsfolk of Arles, southern France, where he was living, followed and taunted by children because of his odd behaviour, even the subject of a petition to have him declared insane and removed to an asylum. Murphy's efforts were further frustrated by the fact that Arles was bombed during the ...more
b e a c h g o t h
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, artists
I LOVE YOU VINCENT.
And even I’ll admit, I was a little bored with this story.
It was tremendously repetitive for the first 2/3rds of this book HOWEVER
it fully redeemed itself the moment Vincent cut off his ear and started his true descent into madness.
I sympathised with Vincent, I love how he loved, I saw what he saw and I left this book feeling as though Vincent was no longer just my hero, but also my friend.
This book will forever be a favourite of mine. But not because of the way this is
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Robert Lukins
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Workaday style and methodology, but evergreen, compelling story.
Barbara Evans
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, though some of her conclusions might be a bit fantastical. Solidly researched. Murphy uncovers some interesting new information about this incident and you will never think of Van Gogh the same after reading this book.
Thais
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
AMAZING work. Probably the best book I read this year. It took me at least the first few chapters to get into it, but then I couldn’t put it down.

Well written and fascinating. I wish I could find something similar for other painters I admire.
Neil H
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed and appreciated the sleuthing that went into the manifestation of this work. This is my first work into VG life and I thought I would dip into a small section and this turned out to be an enjoyable read most of the way. I liked how the author made known the different thought processes to clarify some points which other biographies have glossed over. Now I just have to get a airplane ticket to Arles and Amsterdam
Andrew
Aug 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
BBC Radio 4 book of the week, abridged. Interesting but quite dry and the mystery is a bit of an anti-climax!
Oznasia
The true story? The author has certainly put in a lot of research but I still see her conclusions as conjecture. Nevertheless, an interesting and enjoyable read.
Marilyn
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adored this book. And I might've gotten a little teary-eyed when Van Gogh's funeral is described. Might have.
Jane Fitzpatrick
I came to this book as a complete novice in van Gogh research, of which there has been so much that there are whole mature schools of thought about the man, his life, his treatment, his relationship with Gauguin, the notorious ear, and his death. While pursuing her main research question (exactly what injury did van Gogh inflict on himself?) Murphy is kind enough to give the reader a good overview of these fields.
Van Gogh has so often been portrayed as the archetypal 'tortured artist'. So much
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Micayla
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I am not an adventurer by choice, but by fate." - Vincent van Gogh

"...there's always basically some truth in it that as a man a painter is too absorbed by what his eyes see and doesn't have enough mastery of the rest of his life." - Vincent van Gogh

"Now, so many years later, I realize that practically everything I thought I knew about about Vincent van Gogh in Arles when I set off on this adventure has turned out not to be true. Vincent had moments of deep crisis, but as his paintings,
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