New Book, Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story, Reveals Previously Unpublished Evidence About Vincent Van Gogh and His Notorious Breakdown

TORONTO, July 12, 2016 /CNW/ - On December 23, 1888, Vincent van Gogh looked in the mirror, picked up a blade and sliced into his ear, a violent act that has come to define him. But exactly how much he cut off has never been clear, and scholars have long maintained that Vincent only took off the lobe.

Now Bernadette Murphy, author of a new book, Van Gogh's Ear (published today July 12, 2016) uncovers definitive evidence about his infamous act of self-harm and, for the first time, identifies the woman to whom he presented his grisly package.

Previously unpublished and now revealed worldwide for the first time in Van Gogh's Ear, is a diagram Murphy discovered in an archive in California, drawn by Dr. Felix Rey, the doctor how treated Van Gogh the day after his breakdown, showing exactly the damage Vincent inflicted on himself.

Murphy also debunks the "Rachel" myth for the first time – the young woman to whom Van Gogh gave his severed ear. Long presumed to be a prostitute, Murphy has discovered that "Rachel" was in fact Gabrielle, a maid in the red-light district of Arles and working at the brothel Vincent went to that night, leading her to posit new theories about why he gave her this gift.

After seven years of meticulous research, Murphy has reconstructed Van Gogh's time in Arles, France, and casts new light not only on why he committed such a brutal act but also on how we view him, his art and his madness.

"This investigation has been an incredible adventure and discovering the document was an extraordinary moment. From my little house in Provence I couldn't believe I had found something new and important about Vincent Van Gogh, but it was a vital detail in my complete re-examination of this most famous of artists, the key people he met in Arles and his tragic end."             
-- Bernadette Murphy

Bernadette Murphy is an indefatigable researcher and compelling storyteller. She casts dramatic new light on one of history's most famous episodes of self-harm, neatly and convincingly skewering many long-held myths and forcing us to reappraise what we know of Van Gogh's life."  
--  Ross King, author of Leonardo and the Last Supper

BERNADETTE MURPHY was born and raised in the UK. She has lived most of her adult life in the south of France, and worked in many different fields. A series of chance events led her to start investigating the life of Van Gogh in Arles. Van Gogh's Ear is her first book. She worked closely with Jeremy Paxman on a BBC documentary of the same title, which will air on PBS this fall.


Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story by Bernadette Murphy is published July 12, 2016 by Random House Canada and simultaneously in US, UK, Germany and Netherlands. It is the first publication of the document drawn by Dr. Felix Rey

The diagram was drawn for the writer Irving Stone when he visited Dr. Rey in Arles in 1930, whilst researching his fictionalized biography of Van Gogh, Lust for Life (1934).  It is now held by the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkley.

The document was first revealed to the public by Bernadette Murphy at a press conference at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, on July 12, 2016.

SOURCE Penguin Random House Canada Limited

Image with caption: "New Book, Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story, Reveals Previously Unpublished Evidence About Vincent Van Gogh and His Notorious Breakdown (CNW Group/Penguin Random House Canada Limited)". Image available at:

Image with caption: "Diagram by Dr. Felix Rey, the attending physician, showing how and where Van Gogh cut off his ear. Credit: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. (CNW Group/Penguin Random House Canada Limited)". Image available at:

For further information: Sheila Kay,, 416 957 1570

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