Paul Gauguin, “Two Tahitian Women,” 1899 / museumgoer

In April 2011, this work was attacked while on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Susan Burns, 53, grabbed the painting by its frame and attempted to pull it off the wall. She then hit the painting, which was protected by a plexiglass shield, with her right fist.  According to a witness, she did so while screaming, “This is evil!”

Burns was arrested on-site and charged with attempted theft in the second degree. Upon being arrested, she told investigators, “I feel that Gauguin is evil. He has nudity and is bad for the children. He has two women in the painting and it’s very homosex­ual. I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned. I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.” 

The painting was not harmed, and Burns was barred from re-entering the museum. Only four months later, however, she made her way back to the same gallery, this time attacking Matisse’s 1919 painting “The Plumed Hat.” Once again, no harm was done to the work in question.

Christopher Schreck