Sunday, July 29, 2012

Van Gogh in Auvers

Church of Auvers Sur Oise
Musee d'Orsay
Today July 29 marks the death of painter Vincent van Gogh. It is believed he died of a gun shot that he inflicted on himself two days before (July 27, 1890).  The actual circumstances of how it happened are unclear. Pulitzer-prize winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith in their recent biography of the painter have advanced the theory that he died in fact not of his own hands but that he had been the victim of a gun accident.  Two teenaged boys he knew could have shot him accidentally and to protect them he had claimed a suicide.  He died in Auvers sur Oise, a village located  just 27 km northwest of Paris.

In May 1890 van Gogh left sunny Provence following his hospitalization  at the mental hospital St Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy de Provence.  He came to Auvers sur Oise following the advice of fellow artist Camille Pissaro so that he could be close to Dr. Gachet who could treat him and who himself was an amateur artist.  Auvers sur Oise in the late 19th century was a popular artist retreat - the like of Daubigny, Renoir, Corot came here to paint.  Vincent van Gogh took a rented room with half-board in the village inn--the Auberge Ravoux.  During his 70 days in Auvers, van Gogh was prolific.  He produced some 80 paintings and sketches including portrait of Dr. Gachet, Wheat Field with Crows,  Church of Auvers sur Oise and  Daubiny' s Garden.  After two days of intense suffering from his wound, van Gogh was buried on July 30 1890 in the village cemetery.  His beloved brother Theo in attendance at this funeral died sixth months later and was buried alongside him in Auvers. Today you can visit this charming little town and the Auberge Ravoux where room number 5 has been painstakingly restored to its original  condition as well as  the dining room where van Gogh took his meals  (incidentally, it is now a restaurant serving 19th century inspired dishes) .  Of interest in the village is also the Church of Auvers immortalized by the artist as well as the cemetery where the painter and  his brother lay side by side.

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