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Adeline Ravoux

Adeline Ravoux – The Interview and more

by VanGoghology

Adeline Charlotte Ravoux was born in Rueil-Malmaison, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, on November 20, 1877. She was the eldest daughter of Arthur and Louis Ravoux, and was 13 years old when she posed for Vincent van Gogh, although he thought she was “16 or so”.

This week I’ve done a portrait of a young girl of 16 or so, in blue against a blue background, the daughter of the people where I’m lodging. I gave her that portrait but I’ve done a variant for you, a no. 15 canvas.

A young Adeline Ravoux

A young Adeline Ravoux

Adeline sat five or six times in her iconic blue dress, as she recounted in 1953. It was a dress that she was deeply proud of because it was her first maiden gown.

In May 1895, she married a chef named Louis CARRIÉ, who was eleven years her senior. By the time Adeline Ravoux gave her interviews in the early 1950s, Louis had already passed away in 1949, and she was living with her younger sister, Germaine, who was also a widower. The two sisters ran the hostelry of the Institute Saint Joseph at the Château de Mesnières en Bray. Adeline passed away in 1965, aged 87.

Adeline gave a couple (possibly more) interviews in the early 1950’s; I am starting with a lesser-known interview.

In 1953, Maximilien Gauthier sat down with the sisters, who shed new light on their famous lodger.

“I was very young,” said Mrs. Carrié—the woman in blue—when Mr. Vincent came to live with us. More than sixty years have passed, and yet I see it again as if it were yesterday. He walked with his head tilted a little to the side—the one where he was missing an ear, severed cleanly. I didn’t think he was handsome. He spoke little, but, so simple and kind, with always a half-smile on his lips, he had a great deal of charm. No one could have assumed that he had suffered from a mental imbalance.

The room on the first floor that is shown today was never his. He lived above, under the roof, in a sort of very narrow garret, the walls of which had been whitewashed, and which looked out into the sky through a small snuff-box window.

“He has made three portraits of you, in a blue dress. “I remember that dress well, for it was my first maiden dress, an event!” But you said: three portraits. I’ve only ever seen one. “The other two are doubtless sketches of which you have no recollection, or lines executed without your presence. “You may be right, but I have only had five or six sittings. “While he was painting, was he chatting with you?” “He was very absorbed, puffing on his pipe incessantly, in a veritable cloud of smoke. I was posing in the back room of our inn, which we had abandoned for the three artists who were staying with us at the time. Van Gogh ate all his meals with the other two, a Dutchman and a Spaniard. In the morning, he would go to the landscape, and in the afternoon, he would often stay there to finish his canvases, which he would then put to dry on the walls.

What did you think of his portrait of you?” “His painting frightened me a little by its violence, and I did not think I resembled it. It wasn’t until much later that I realized, while looking at reproductions, that he had been able to guess in the young girl that I was, the woman that I was going to be.

“For my part, as soon as I approached you, I recognized you. Look at the way you put your hands on top of each other, that’s exactly it. Do you remember the day he died? (There is more to this interview recounting Vincent’s death, which will be covered as another topic.).

Adeline Ravoux Auction 1966 Christies

In 1956, Adeline Ravoux wrote a memoir based on Vincent’s time spent at her parents’ inn. The copy below is a letter to n/a. Written 1956 in Auvers-sur-Oise. Translated by Robert Harrison / Webexhibits. 

Memoirs of Vincent van Gogh’s stay in Auvers-sur-Oise – Adeline Ravoux

Vincent Van Gogh arrived at our place at the end of May 1890; I cannot be more specific on the date from memory. It is claimed that before this, he stayed briefly at the hotel Saint Aubin when he arrived in Auvers, but I never heard him speak of it. You have been able to see the small bedroom that he lived in with us on the second floor, the room whose door faces the staircase.

 

Of his dress, I remember only a blue drill jacket, shorter than an ordinary jacket, which he wore constantly. He did not wear either a collar or a tie. For headgear, he wore a felt hat with large flaps, and when the sun shone, a straw hat like those worn by gardeners or fishermen. Overall, his appearance was neglected.

He was a man of good build, one shoulder slightly leaning on the side of his wounded ear, a very penetrating glance, gentle and calm, but not a very communicative character. When one spoke to him, he always replied with an agreeable smile. He spoke French very correctly, hunting a bit for his words. He never drank alcohol. I insist on this point. On the day of his suicide, he was not in the least intoxicated, as some claim. When I later learned that he had been interned in an asylum for lunatics in the Midi, I was very surprised, as he always appeared calm and gentle in Auvers. He was well respected at our place. We called him familiarly “Monsieur Vincent.” He never mixed with the clients of the café.

 

He took his meals with our two other boarders, who were Tommy Hirschig (we called him Tom familiarly) and Martinez de Valdivielse. Tommy Hirschig was a Dutch painter; to me, he seemed twenty-three or twenty-four years old; he arrived at ours a bit after Van Gogh. He knew very little French and continued to speak it badly for a long time, with vocabulary mistakes that provoked foolish laughter. He was a bright lad, not much of a worker, more preoccupied with beautiful girls than painting. His relationship with Vincent seemed to have been superficial. It was difficult to follow their conversation because they spoke in Dutch. Vincent did not seem to take him very seriously. Hirschig left our house in Auvers a short while after the death of Van Gogh. I think, for my part, that it was our low rent (3,50 Francs per day) that attracted Van Gogh to us. In any case, it certainly was not Dr. Gachet who bought him. We had no relationship with this physician, who I had never seen at our place before the death of Vincent.

 

Adeline Ravoux partialMartinez de Valdivielse was a Spanish etcher exiled from his homeland for his Carlist opinions. He received large subsidies from his family. Martinez had a house in Auvers and only took his meals with us. He was a big, handsome man with a long, grizzled brown beard, with a profile as on a medal. Very vibrant and nervous, he strode the house from one end to the other. He expressed himself very well in French and was happy to speak to Father, whom he well respected. The first time that he saw a canvas of Van Gogh, with his usual fire, he cried, “What pig made that?” Vincent, standing behind his easel, replied with his usual calm: “It is me, Monsieur.” This is how they met one another.

They hit it off quite well and had long, moving conversations, especially on art and artists that they knew, one expressing himself with fire and enthusiasm, the other with tranquility. I do not think that Martinez really appreciated the painting by Van Gogh. Vincent does not speak of him in his letters, at least in those that have been brought to public knowledge.

In the Van Gogh correspondence, he does not name Dr. Gachet among his relationships. But I believe that the legend that suggests that Vincent went to dinner there every Sunday and Monday is probably false, or at least strongly exaggerated, because I have no memory of repeated absences of M. Vincent at mealtimes, which he regularly took with us. In fact, I am convinced that there were no intimate relationships between the doctor and the artist. That is a problem on which scholars will have to work.

 

The menu was that served during the period in restaurants: meat, vegetables, salad, dessert. I do not remember M. Vincent having any food preferences. He never refused a dish. He was not a difficult boarder. The question of religion was never raised in our house. We never saw Vincent Van Gogh either in church or at the priest’s house. I never knew any Protestants in Auvers. Vincent did not visit anybody in the village, to the best of my knowledge. He had few conversations with us. Father, who had been established in Auvers only a few months before the arrival of Vincent, was then forty-two years old. He did not hold a conversation on art and did not discuss with him any material questions.

 

On the other hand, Vincent had attached himself to my little sister Germaine (today Mrs. Guilloux, who lives with me). She was then a baby; two years old. Every evening, following the meal, he took her on his knees, and drew The Sandman for her on a slate: a horse harnessed to a cart, in which the sandman stood upright, throwing sand by the handful. Following this, the little girl kissed everyone and went to bed.

 

Vincent had not spoken to me before he did my portrait, other than some polite words.

One day, he asked me, “Would it please you if I did your portrait?” He appeared to really want to. I accepted, and he asked my parents’ permission. I was then thirteen years, but to some, I appeared sixteen. He did my portrait in an afternoon, in one sitting. During the sitting, Vincent did not say a word to me; he smoked his pipe non-stop.

He found me very well behaved and complimented me for not having moved. I was not tired, but it amused me to see him paint, and I was very proud to pose for my portrait. Dressed in blue, I was sitting on a chair. A blue ribbon held my hair. I have blue eyes. He used blue for the background of the portrait; it was therefore a Symphony in Blue. M. Vincent also made a copy in square format that he sent to his brother, as he indicates in one of his letters. I did not see him do this copy. There is also a third portrait of me. I don’t know this last.

Auberge Ravoux Van Gogh Adeline

What I wish to emphasize is that I only posed for one portrait. I confess that I was only poorly satisfied with my portrait, that I was even disappointed: I did not see a resemblance. Nevertheless, last year, someone who came to see me to talk about Van Gogh: the first time that they met me, they recognized me from this portrait that Vincent had done and added, “This is not the youthful girl that you were that Vincent saw, but the woman that you would become.” Neither of my parents really appreciated this painting, nor did anyone else that saw it then. At this time, very few people understood the paintings of Van Gogh. We kept this picture until 1905, I believe, as well as that representing the Town Hall of Auvers that Vincent had offered to Father. Again, I saw Vincent paint this last canvas on our sidewalk in front of the cafe. It was 14th. July; the town hall was decked out, and there was a garland of lanterns around the trees.

 

After fifteen years, the paint on these canvases started flaking. We were then in Meulan. Across from our café was the Hotel Pinchon, where some artists were lodging; there were two Americans, Harry Harronson, who also lived in Paris, rue du Marché au Beurre, no. 2, I believe, and, in Meulan, the other was nicknamed “Le petit pére Sam” [little father Sam]; there was also a German and a Dutchman who claimed to be of the Van Gogh family. They knew that Father possessed two works by Van Gogh.

 

They asked to see them and then later insisted that Father give them these canvases because they said, “The paint is damaged, and it is necessary to give them special care.” Faced by the threat of seeing these paintings deteriorating, Father told them, “Huh! Well, give me ten Francs each.” Thus, it is that these paintings of Vincent Van Gogh were given up for forty francs: The Woman in Blue and The Town Hall of Auvers on 14 July.

Van Gogh filled his days in an almost uniform way: He took his breakfast, then at nine he left for the countryside with his easel and his artist’s box, always with his pipe in his mouth: he was going to paint. He returned punctually, at noon, for lunch. In the afternoon, he often worked on a painting in progress in “the painter’s room.” Sometimes he worked there until dinner, sometimes he went out for four hours until the evening meal. After dinner, he played with my little sister, drawing her the Sandman, then he immediately went up to his bedroom. I never saw him write in the cafe. I think that he wrote in the evening in his bedroom.

Here is what I know on his death.

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