Vincent Van Gogh arrived at Auvers-sur-Oise in May 1890. Nearly 130 years ago. Auvers is a small town, or a large village North of Paris. Long time friends of ours live 10 kms away. Our old house in Normandy was 20-25 kms away perhaps. Monet’s Giverny lies 30-40 kms to the West. One week-end we drove to Auvers.
L’Auberge Ravoux, or Ravoux’s Inn is where Van Gogh lived the last three months of his life. His room was under the roof, to the right, where a small “lucarne”, a dormer, can be seen. He paid 1 Franc rent a day. During his brief stay in Auvers, Van Gogh painted close to 70 paintings. The house is typical of the hundreds or thousands of small villages in that “march” of Normandy, called “Le Vexin Normand.” Thick stone walls, flat brown tiles.
“Painter Vincent Van Gogh lived in this house and died on July 29th 1890.”
In 1890, this is how the Auberge Ravoux looked. Tables and chairs outside. An old French custom of eating and drinking on the “terrasse”. The men on the right wear the typical attire of the working class of that time. A cap and heavy duty clothes. Drinking red wine by the looks of it. The window curtains are still there, or a copy. The tree on the left is gone.
Van Gogh’s famous room with the yellow chair. (Atelier des lumières, Paris, July 2019). My grandfather had an almost identical bed, in walnut wood. As I researched the Auberge Ravoux, the mention of the dormer puzzled me. Now I know why. The room Van Gogh painted had a window, not a dormer, and was not under the roof… It is becoming hard to establish facts… Dormer or window?
Portrait of Adeline Ravoux, Museum of art, Cleveland. The village is strewn with dozens of copies of Van Gogh’s paintings. Good. I am not planning to go to Cleveland any time soon. Vincent wrote, probably to his brother Theo:
“This week, I did a portrait of a young girl, sixteen or so. The daughter of the people where I stay…”
A typical house of the region. At least two centuries old. Not unlike the one we had a few miles away. Van Gogh probably walked past it every day.
The stairs at Auvers. Art museum, Saint-Louis, Missouri.
The stairs are still there. The exact same colours, the foliage, the trees can be seen all the way across to England. Same species. The colours of my summers.
No idea what that plant is. Auvers-sur-Oise. 2012.
Iris, Atelier des lumières. Those were painted in the South, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
Atelier des lumières. To the right, Doctor Gachet. Paul Gachet, 1828-1909, was an MD. He lived in Auvers where he invited Van Gogh to restore his failing mental health. I only recently discovered that beyond his friendship with Vincent and way beyond the limits of a small village in Normandy, Dr Gachet was a patron of the arts. An art collector, he knew Cézanne and Pissaro.
The church at Auvers. Atelier des lumières. One of his most well-known paintings.
The church at Auvers. Again, there are hundreds of such churches in the region. This one dates back to the 11th century. There are remnants of Romanesque architecture, as you can see in the round roof of the small turret to the right. The church in our village dated back to the 14th century. People have lived there since Roman times at least. Generation after generation. Sadly the buildings are in ill repair. An outside wall of the church at Auvers just fell down last week. A small wall. 600,000 Euros repair. A trifle. A Van Gogh today fetches prices in the 150 million Dollar range…
Detail of one of the walls of the church. The bull and the lion. Symbols for the Evangelists, Luke and Mark.
The man and the eagle. Matthew and John.
Now, from the church we take a path to the right, to the edge of the village. Where the wheat fields stretch. Despite pesticides, one can still see a few poppies on the side of the fields.
The cemetery at Auvers. Those crosses are still scattered all over the countryside.
Here rest Vincent and Theo van Gogh. Theo was Vincent’s little brother. He became an art merchant, first in Holland, then in Belgium, and finally in Paris. In 1886 he invited Vincent to live with him in Montmartre. Theo supported his brother, sent him the paint, canvas and brushes he needed. And money. The love between the two brothers is well documented in the hundreds of letters of their correspondence. It seems to me they even wrote in French at times.
Vincent died in July 1890. The circumstances of his death are both well-known and re-visited by “modern” historians. Theo died 6 months later. Kikipedia says he died of syphilis-induced dementia. Maybe. I always heard he’d died of sorrow. He was buried in Utrecht. In 1914, his widow Johanna sent his remains to Auvers, to be buried alongside his brother.
Thank you to both brothers for the colours you left us.