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Auvers-sur-Oise and region.


Auvers, a village north west of Paris on the Oise River, attracted numerous artists during the latter part of the 19th c.  The town is probably most famous as the site for Vincent Van Gogh’s final burst of creativity and death.

Vincent Van Gogh wasn’t the only painter who lived and worked in Auvers.  Situated just 30 kms.  from Paris, Auvers offered exceptional diversity of scenes, light and atmosphere.  What a surprise of real countryside with light playing on the fields and water, fog and movement on the river, thatch roof cottages, stone houses, fields, animals, and rutted roads.In 1849 the railroad came, making Auvers less than 1 hour travel time from Gare du Nord.  Sundays brought the great exodus — artists and writers scrammed out of town.  Plenty of other folks did too.

Paintings by artists who lived and worked in Auvers hang in museum collections around the world, from the Metropolitan in NYC and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, to  Musee de la Chartreuse, Musee de Pontoise, the Basel Museum and National Gallery of Prague.  Paintings created in Auvers are also featured in private collections.

The influx of artists might have started during the summer of 1854 when Corot and Daubigny painted together at Auvers. Dabigny bought land there in 1860.

In 1873 Paul Cezanne and Hortense, his companion, moved into a house close to Dr. Gachet’s in Auvers.  Cezanne continue to live and work there in 1874.  A decade earlier, Daubigny had helped Pissarro enter the Salon of 1864.  His children Karl and Cecile were friends of the painters and became painters themselves.  Berthe Morisot admitted to the Salon the same year with “An Old Road at Auvers.”

Daubigny continued to help artists promote their work.  He championed Renoir who was denied admission to the Salon in 1866 and  Pissarro (denied in 1867), as well as other painters.  Monet, Pissaro and Daubigny were refuges together in London during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.  They were in contact with Durand Ruel Gallery who sold works by Corot and Daubigny.

Pissarro lived in Pontoise and was considered a God-father to Gaugin and Cezanne. The three artists are buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris:  J-B Corot in 1875, Daubigny in 1876 and Daumier in 1879.

April 1887 marked the first impressionist group show in Paris. Pissaro organized (along with Monet, Degas, Guillaumin, Morisot, Sisley and others) the “Society Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs” for seven impressionist shows held during a span of 12 years.

Other Auvers painters whose names are not so current in the popular mind include: Charles Beauverie, Octave Linet lived in Eragny and painted in Auvers. Giran Max.

Van Gogh arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise on May 21, 1890 and worked with fury:  70 days and 70 paintings. Treasuring the self-portrait he’d one in St. Remy where he rested in a hospital, Van Gogh brought the portrait to Auvers and kept in his room at Auberge Ravoux.  Visitors can see Van Gogh’s garret and the Auberge serves perhaps the best lunch in town.
Wander around the town on foot to appreciate the intimacy of the neighborhood.  Stand in the same spots where Van Gogh studied the landscape and whipped paintings out of his soul Auvers.  Trek up to the church to pay homage at the small cemetery and leave a pebble on a tombstone.
A Japanese design influence on Van Gogh’s technique is suggested in the paintings of Dr. Gachet’s house.   Daubigny’s Garden, one of three versions of this garden painted by Van Gogh, hangs in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

He wrote to his brother:  “There are many private homes and modern, middle-class dwellings which are very pleasant, sunny and filled with flowers. And this in a countryside that is almost plump.  Right at present the development of a new society amidst the old is not at all disagreeable.  There’s quite an aura of well-being.  Calm, just like at Puvis de Chavannes…no factories, only beautiful greenery, abundant and well-kept.” Letter to Theo and Jo, his brother and sister in law, late May, 1890.

The big change for Van Gogh was painting in open air.  Painting ordinary nature not idealized classically composed scenes.  He painted peasants doing vernacular chores.  The paintings described a moment of light with a  balance of mass and movement.

Van Gogh discovered emotion in human faces, cut through pretense to feeling.  He reveled in color and defined brushstrokes.

Vincent Van Gogh never left Auvers-sr-Oise.  He is buried alongside his brother Theo in the Auvers churchyard, a short walk from town.

Vincent Van Gogh’s tombstone.


Auvers or The Painter’s Eye

Maire-Paule Defossez

Translated: Patricia Wallace Costa

Paris: Editions der Valhermeil, 1986.