Finding Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, France
From the popular Louvre to the perhaps more obscure Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris certainly has its share of some of the world’s finest museums.
However, quick daytrips from Paris can offer equally artistic experiences far from the hustle and bustle of la ville lumière. For those in need of un petit repos, I’d recommend following the illustrious footsteps of Van Gogh in France in Auvers-sur-Oise.
Small and innocuous, this charming French village inspired Van Gogh to create over seventy paintings in the last seventy days of his life. Although Kimberley Petyt, the owner and Managing Director of Parisian Events, described Auvers-sur-Oise as her favorite day trip from Paris, the town rarely receives the recognition it deserves.
Alors, step back in time with us and pass through the village that served as Van Gogh’s muse. Plaques of his artwork can be found beside the real-life scenes along the way, making for a unique meta experience.
The Auvers Town Hall
Begin your tour of this lovely French town here. The modern town hall remains largely unchanged from Van Gogh’s day; only the absence of swirling colors representing Bastille Day in Van Gogh’s painting are missing. Otherwise, it remains entirely intact—although ideally with a better plumbing system.Auvers Town Hall
14 rue du Pois, 955430 Auvers-sur-Oise
Dr. Gachet’s Garden
Dr. Gachet, a French homeopathic physician and art patron, cared for Van Gogh after the artist spent a troubled year in an asylum.
In one of Van Gogh’s letters, the artist described Dr. Gachet as, “something like another brother”.1 The familial, harmonious relationship between the two men lives on through Van Gogh’s painting of the doctor’s garden. It’s worth taking the time to compare the painting and today’s garden side-by-side.La maison du docteur Gachet
78, rue du Docteur-Gachet, 95430 Auvers-sur-Oise
La Maison de Van Gogh
Finally, explore La Maison de Van Gogh. The now-converted Ravoux Inn remains the only one of his 37 residences to have survived the decay of time. In fact, this lieu de mémoire, or a place of historic association, remains quite active and lively even today.
Similar to the quintessentially French town itself, the Ravoux Inn has captured the essence of the late 19th century, creating an atmosphere that harkens back to the past, while simultaneously catering to the present day.Maison de Van Gogh
52 Rue de Général de Gaulle, 95430 Auvers-sur-Oise
Experiencing art in France
Beyond simply contemplating the beautiful sites throughout the town, Auvers-sur-Oise provides a rare opportunity to see beyond the artist’s work. It allows a glimpse into the mind of a creative genius; and a way to contrast the emotional perceptions laid bare across Van Gogh’s paintings with the real-life versions before us.
Here, instead of simply staring at artwork hanging from a neglected museum wall, we can ‘experience’ the painting. And suddenly, time begins to seem irrelevant.
This irrelevance of time — this ability for history and present day to coincide in the one place so effortlessly — speaks to a broader French cultural trend. France, a country so often mocked for its reticence to adapt to the pace of life found in London or New York City, savors something sweet and rare in exchange: the coexistence of history and the present — the ability to not only see remnants of what was, but, if only for a moment, experience it as well.
Have you visited Auvers-sur-Oise? Or do you have other unique places where you love to experience art in France? Share your experiences with us!References:
1. Gogh, Vincent Van, and Ronald De. Leeuw. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. London: Allen Lane, Penguin, 1996. Print. Image credits:
1. Auvers sur Oise by Philippe L Photography, via Flickr.
2. Marguerite Gachet in the garden, via Wikipedia.
3. Auberge Ravoux, via Wikipedia.
4. Chaumes de Cordeville à Auvers-sur-Oise by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr.