The house of Van Gogh’s Dr. Gachet

Dr. Gachet’s house was a little further than we thought. In fact it was a good half hour walk from the cemetery, through the town and out the other side. We walked past the Chateau d’Auvers which was built in 1635 for the Italian banker of Marie de Médici. They are trying to take advantage of the various Auvers painters but there are no paintings to be seen – just an audio visual show for a 10 Euro admission fee. We kept walking.

Auvers - Dr Gachet house

The house on the hill. Dr. Gachet was a widower, so it was him, his son Paul and daughter Marguerite here.

Finally we got to Dr. Gachet’s house. It’s now a state-run museum, a fairly plain house, built up on a hill from the street surrounded by multi-level gardens, with a wonderful view over the town and the adjacent valley. In this house, Dr. Gachet played host not only to Van Gogh, but in earlier years, Cézanne and Pissarro too. Dr. Gachet was quite a collector and both he and his son were artists, of a sort, too. Dr. Gachet painted under the name Paul van Ryssel while his son took on the name Louis Van Ryssel.

Auvers - Dr Gachet's artwork in the garden

The gardens with copies of Dr. Gachet's artwork. You could imagine wonderful lunches on summer days in these gardens.

Dr Gachet's ingredients

Part of the display in one of the rooms were jars of his ingredients. Any doctors in the house?

Inside the house feels quite cramped. It seems bigger from the outside. Van Gogh came for dinner a number of times (written invitations were sent over) and he was given some of Dr. Gachet’s homeopathic treatments. What did Vincent think of Dr. Gachet? He was quite perceptive in his observations. After having met him the first time, he wrote back to Theo that day,

“I’ve seen Dr. Gachet, who gave me the impression of being rather eccentric, but his doctor’s experience must keep him balanced himself while combating the nervous ailment from which it seems to me he’s certainly suffering at least as seriously as I am.”

Auvers - Van Gogh Gachet plaque

The plaque showing one of the two portraits Van Gogh painted of Dr. Gachet. This was the copy he made and now hangs in the d'Orsay. The other was the one that sold at auction for $82.5 million and its present location is unknown. In a letter to Gauguin, Van Gogh said, "I have a portrait of Dr. Gachet with the heartbroken expression of our time."

Four days later, he mentioned Dr. Gachet again in another letter to Theo,

“I think that we must in no way count on Dr Gachet. In the first place he’s iller than I am, it seemed to me, or let’s say just as much, there you have it. Now when one blind man leads another blind man, do they not both fall into the ditch?”

Gachet’s house was described by Van Gogh as rather dark and gloomy. It was also full of stuff he collected and of course, the ingredients for his various homeopathic treatments.

He painted Dr. Gachet from life once, and made another copy in his room. He also painted Dr. Gachet’s 20-year old daughter Marguerite twice, once at the piano and once outside in the garden. He never did paint his son, Paul, the one who eventually gave much of the collection to the state, so we can now see it at the Musée d’Orsay. This was a very significant collection which became the subject of a show in 1999 that traveled from Paris to Amsterdam to New York.

Marguerite Gachet at the piano

Van Gogh quite liked the way he captured Marguerite's dress in this painting. There is a theory that he was very fond of her, and perhaps she of him, but the doctor kept them apart. Who knows? He never mentioned it in any letters. This painting hung in her bedroom until 1934 when her brother sold it. She lived until 1949, her brother Paul until 1962.

Like being in his room and the restaurant at the Auberge, being in this house felt strange, knowing that 120 years ago, nearly to the day, Van Gogh visited here, ate here and painted here.

Auvers - Dr Gachet gardens and view

The path that leads to the stairs down to the street also gives a view of the valley along the Oise River.

After walking around the house again, taking some pictures, we had seen enough. Walking back to the town, we noticed that one of the houses on the same street as Gachet’s was for sale. It was a beautiful old two-storey stone house, seemingly in great condition, offered at 370,000 Euros. Hmmm. Mentally, we were doing the math.

Finally we reached the train station, and within 15 minutes were back on a train to Paris. It had been a wonderful, and yet, somewhat sad and reflective day in Auvers.

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Comments: 9

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  • Sylvia

    Lovely to see pictures of Dr. Gachet’s house. Just finished reading “Leaving Van Gogh”, a fictional novel in which the author imagines the relationship between Van Gogh and Dr. Gachet.

    • Thank you. I have that book, haven’t read it yet. I’ve discovered a number of novels where Van Gogh plays a starring role. Soon I’ll post pictures of where Vincent lived with Theo in Paris and Pere Tanguy’s store. It’s still there!

  • Terri

    I as well just finished the same book and was very intrigued. Went online to bring it all to life. Thank you for the images and tour. If I ever do get a chance to visit Paris, Auvers will definitely be in my plans.

  • carol hudak

    This website has great meaning for me. I love Vincent and am writing a book about him – in heaven!

    Your comments are interesting and enjoyable. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

    • Carol, thank you for your comment. Good for you, writing a book. What’s the angle? Van Gogh has been a popular subject for both non-fiction and fiction.

  • carol hudak

    Andy, it’s ultimately a very compassionate look at suicide. My ‘heaven’ is not religious, only most loving.

  • Carol Hudak

    BTW, Andy, I have finished my book. Writing about Vincent van Gogh was an extraordinary experience.

    I hope to visit the places of his life and death as you and your family have.

    A Happy New Year to you all!

    Carol Hudak

    • Hi Carol, so, do you have publishing plans for the book? BTW, have you seen the new biography of Van Gogh where the authors come up with another explanation for his death, not suicide?

  • Carol Hudak

    Andy, I will publish this myself. I have a book on adoption healing which I am just finishing up, and I will plan a website and go from there.

    I’ve heard about the non-suicide theory, but I am not convinced. In some of Vincent’s late writings there is a tone of despair. Being shunned by the people of Arles and his fallout with Dr. Gachet – along with what was certainly some sort of serious/intermittant major mental illness – leads me to still believe he committed suicide. If he really did not commit suicide when he died, then, I believe it would have been a matter of time.

    Remember, he voluntarily admitted himself to an asylum.

    But certainly their theory is interesting and worth discussing . . . (and remember, his failed dream of an artist’s house with Gaugain certainly had a strong negative impact on him. His response to difficulties with Gaugain was to inflict harm upon himself.)

    Being a creative person, I can understand how overwhelmed Vincent could have been by these major setbacks.

    Of course, if he didn’t commit suicide, my efforts are for naught. LOL. —– But it really was wonderful to live in a heavenly land with this unique and sensitive artist.