Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise
Today is Auvers day – walk in the steps of Van Gogh, eat where he ate, see the fields (under sunny skies this time) and finally the cemetery. Breakfast was a quick café and pain au chocolat down the street, and then off to the Gare du Nord. Apparently it’s notorious for pickpockets, but we made it through intact. Figured out how to get the return tickets, but were completely lost as to how to find the right platform (there are many to choose from). Finally, hailed down a conductor, who in a very cheerful way said, “Yes, come take my train.” That put a smile on our faces.
About a half hour and fifteen stops later, we got off, waited five minutes to switch trains and in 10 minutes we were in Auvers-sur-Oise. As soon as we got out of the station, we saw a plaque commemorating his painting of Daubigny’s garden which is across the street.
Here’s the house today.
Just a few more minutes along the street, and we were standing in front of the town hall, not much changed since Van Gogh painted it.
Here’s how Van Gogh saw it, all dressed up on Bastille Day, July 14, 1890, about two weeks before he died.
If you’re standing in front of the town hall, and then turn around to look across the street, you’ll see a building that is familiar to all those who know Van Gogh. The Auberge Ravoux, now beautifully restored, is one of the key attractions in this small town.
Here is one of the few photos of the Auberge around the time Van Gogh was a guest there. In the doorway, the young girl Adeline is the daughter of the inn-keeper Arthur Ravoux. Adeline later wrote a short memoir about the famous guest who painted her portrait and whose death she witnessed upstairs in room number 5.
We walked around the Auberge and saw signs for the entrance to the second and third floors. It was around the back where there was a ticket office and a staircase. We bought our tickets, but it didn’t open for another 15 minutes. So we went across the street where we found a café.
It was a workingman’s café, and look at the mural on the wall inside:
On the subject of the mural and Van Gogh’s nephew Vincent. On his way to Auvers in May 1890, Vincent had stayed with Theo and Johanna in Paris for three days. It was there he first met his namesake. As happy as Vincent was for his brother, it became apparent to him that now Theo had a family to support and he worried that his financial support from his brother was in jeopardy. He always felt like a burden to Theo, and seeing all of his unsold paintings in Paris was yet another cruel reminder. Theo’s job wasn’t going so well, and there are questions about how he and Jo were getting along. (Theo and Jo were married in April, baby Vincent was born in January. Do the math – maybe they had to get married?)
The nephew became known as “Vincent, the engineer” after his profession, and along with his mother Johanna, was one of the heroes in the Van Gogh story. He was the one who inherited all the paintings that his mother had kept and then negotiated with the Dutch government to have the Van Gogh museum built. It is him we can thank that such a substantial collection of Van Gogh’s can be seen by the public in one building.
(BTW, it was Vincent’s grandson, named Theo Van Gogh who was the film maker shot down in an Amsterdam street in 2004 by a Muslim radical because of his views on Muslims and specifically, the film he was working on which was critical of the treatment of women in Muslim society.)
We finished our coffees and went back to the Auberge. Seeing the room Van Gogh had died in was something I had been waiting for.