The Mystery of Van Gogh's Ear

Lecture | November 19 | 5-7 p.m. | Doe Library, Morrison Library

 Bernadette Murphy

 Institute of European Studies, Department of History of Art, Arts & Humanities, Letters & Science Division of , Bancroft Library, Department of French, Townsend Center for the Humanities

Bernadette Murphy spent seven years looking into the night of Vincent van Gogh's infamous self-harm. Using modern technology, her investigation ignored everything that had been written about the subject and she started afresh like a detective. She made an important discovery that re-wrote the story of the world's most famous artist and was reported all over the world. This discovery became the basis of a major exhibition into the artist's mental state in 2016. Although the clue to this discovery was under the nose of the researchers at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, surprisingly, the document was found in the Bancroft Library at Berkeley.

Murphy's book 'Van Gogh's Ear' has been translated into more than ten languages. An accompanying BBC-PBS-Arte documentary, "The Mystery of Van Gogh's Ear," is based on her research.

Murphy will travel from France to Berkeley to talk about her investigation for the very first time to show how--even today, more than 130 years after the event--it is still possible to rewrite history.


Speakers: Author and historian Bernadette Murphy was born and raised in the U.K. and has lived in Provence for the past 30 years. A series of chance events led her to start investigating the life of Van Gogh in Arles, but little did she know at the time quite what an exciting adventure it would turn out to be. "Van Gogh’s Ear" is her first book.

Murphy will be joined by now-retired Bancroft staff member David Kessler, whose quiet reference work in Berkeley's principal special collections library supported Murphy's historic discovery, and Bancroft curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts, David Faulds.

  RSVP online