The Mystery of Van Gogh's Ear

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

 Bernadette Murphy

 French Studies Program, Department of History of Art, Arts & Humanities, Letters & Science Division of , Bancroft Library, Department of French

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.

A lively engaging speaker, Murphy will travel from France to Berkeley to talk about her investigation for the very first time in conversation with Bancroft librarians David Kessler and David Faulds. This presentation will 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.

David Faulds is the Bancroft Library curator of rare books and literary manuscripts. He previously worked at the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University; the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; and St Edmund Hall, Oxford University.

David Kessler was a longtime assistant at the Bancroft Library. In 2010, he searched through an un-catalogued box devoted to Van Gogh's biographer, and retrieved a signed letter from the artist's doctor, which became the key archival document in Bernadette Murphy's study of Van Gogh.