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Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise

by VanGoghology

Vincent had been a patient at the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy for almost a year when he wrote to his mother and sister, Wil, that he was longing to get away from the place, stating, “It’s hard to bear what one endures here.” Yet Vincent knew he was not ready to face the world alone without the need for continued psychiatric care. He was still mentally fragile, pointing out to Theo that he was bored, sad, and feeling dejected. Monotony within the confines of the asylum together with insensitive questionable treatments were causing Vincent to become concerned for his mental well-being and restrictions to work; by now the longer he remained locked up at Saint Remy, the more he feared for his future. 

Vincent’s demeanor changed for the better after receiving several letters from his family, namely Theo, his mother Anna, and his sister Wil. This correspondence gave Vincent a renewed sense of belonging while ushering in a desire to see his family and friends again. He felt that if he were to leave the asylum, away from solitude and certain restrictions, and move north, he would soon get better.

As one reads through Vincent’s letters to Theo at this time, you can sense the trepidation and desire commingling at the bequest for an agreeable outcome. He seeks his brother’s counsel on the matter, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for Theo to approach the director of the asylum concerning a release date. 

I consider this as a shipwreck, this journey, well, one can’t do as one wants, and as one ought to either. Once I got out a little into the park I recovered all my clarity for work, I have more ideas in my head than I could ever put into action, but without it dazzling me. The brushstrokes go like a machine. So based on that I dare believe that in the north I would rediscover my confidence once freed from surroundings and circumstances which I neither understand nor wish to understand.

This comment alone would explain why Vincent produced 74 paintings and 33 drawings during his next 70 days in Auvers Sur Oise. 

In fact, during the last two-to-three weeks in St-Rémy, he worked from dawn to dusk without stopping, and for the last few days, in a frenzy; “Big bouquets, violet-colored irises, big bouquets of roses. and several Landscapes“. The Irises, both in vases, were (F 678/JH 1977), and (F 680/JH 1978). The big bouquets of roses were both pink roses in a vase (F 681 and F 682).

Auvers sur oise with Statue copy min 1 1

Vincent was officially discharged from the Saint-Paul Asylum at Saint-Rémy on Friday, May 16, 1890. (Discover more about Saint-Rémy here.) Upon his release, he took the long train journey to Paris, to spend three days with Theo and meet Jo and baby Vincent Willem for the first time.

Auvers sur Oise 3 locations min 1
A: Auvers-sur-Oise Train Station - B: House of Van Gogh - C: Maison du Dr Gachet

On Tuesday, May 20, 1890, Vincent embarked on another train journey, this time, a much shorter distance from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise.

In 1890, the journey from Gare du Nord (Paris Métro) to Auvers-sur-Oise Station would have been quite different from today’s options. Let’s take a trip back in time and imagine the possibilities:

  • Vincent would have started his journey at the bustling Gare du Nord in Paris, which was approximately one mile from Theo’s apartment.
  • Climbing aboard a majestic steam locomotive, its wheels churning with anticipation.
  • The rhythmic clatter of iron wheels on tracks would have chugged through the picturesque French countryside.
  • Passing by quaint villages and rolling hills, Vincent would have likely caught glimpses of vineyards and poppy fields.
  • Arriving at the Station, the air may have been thick with the scent of hay and freshly turned soil.

Auvers 1890

Stepping out onto the platform a little before noon, he made his way up the charming Place de la Mairie. Lined with cafes, inns, chestnut trees in bloom, and no doubt a welcoming glee from passers-by. His first impression of the rural Parisian landscape was favorable, writing to Theo and Jo that

Auvers is decidedly very beautiful. and, among other things many old thatched roofs, which are becoming rare.

Theo had orchestrated Vincent’s stay in Auvers-sur-Oise at the suggestion of fellow artist Camille Pissarro who settled in the nearby town of Pontoise. Camille, along with several other artists such as Renoir, Daumier, Norbert Goeneutte, Manet, and Cézanne, were at some time or other, patients of Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet.

Auvers-sur-Oise became a haven for artists like Corot, Vignon, Guillaumin, Courbet, Méryon, Daubigny, and Dumoulin who either resided there or briefly escaped the hustle and bustle of Paris. Dr Gachet knew most of these artists very well, and as a result, benefited greatly by acquiring some of their finest works. His house was a veritable museum.

Chemin de fer du Nord .Baldus Edouard btv1b53207752s 11 2
Auvers-sur-Oise - Train Station 1865
Auvers sur Oise 2017
Auvers-sur-Oise - Train Station 2017

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.

He directed me to an inn where they were asking 6 francs a day. For my part I’ve found one where I’ll pay 3.50 a day. And until there’s a change of circumstances, I think I ought to stay there. When I’ve done a few studies I’ll see if there would be any advantage in moving. But it seems unjust to me, when one wants to and can pay and work like any other workman, to have to pay almost double all the same because one works at painting. Anyway I’m starting with the 3.50 inn.

It appears as though Vincent may have only stayed one, or three nights, if at all, at the 6 francs a day inn. There are conflicting stories regarding his stay at the Auberge Saint-Aubin, as it was known. The Val-d’Oise, Departmental Council reports that Vincent temporarily lodged at the Saint-Aubin Inn — French art critic and biographical author Gustave Coquiot expressed in 1923 that Vincent had spent three days there before moving into the more economical Ravoux Inn. In Vincent’s letter to Theo and Jo the day following his arrival (May 21), he doesn’t mention any activity at the Saint-Aubin but writes:

I told Dr Gachet that I would find the inn he suggested preferable at 4 francs a day, but that 6 was 2 francs too dear for the expenses I’m having. It’s all right for him to say that I’ll be quieter there, enough is enough.

His next letter written that same day, or the following, reads:

In the other letter I first of all forgot to give you the address here, which for the time being is: place de la Mairie, c/o Ravoux.

Of course, the more affordable Auberge Ravoux is known today as the House of Van Gogh. Vincent rented room number 5 from Arthur Gustave Ravoux who managed the inn along with his wife, Adeline Louise Touillet.

Auvers, which Vincent referred to as the “old village” had a population of a little over 2,000 and was a busy administrative hub with plenty of craftsmen and artisans. Including his new friend, Dr. Gachet whose homeopathic practice was 22 miles away, in Paris, but had an artist studio in his square house on the hillside where he painted under the pseudonym of P. Van Ryssel. Vincent and Dr. Gachet connected almost immediately, Vincent found him an ‘odd fellow’ but thought of him as a brother.

There is little doubt that Vincent adored Auvers-sur-Oise. As the author of this website, I have researched the area extensively, including the present-day, mid-century, and late 1800’s, which is more relevant to Vincent’s period. Sure, there were a couple of kids who teased him; many locals thought he was odd, including the Ravoux’s daughter, Adeline, whose portrait he painted three times; but he was in his element. Free from the confines of the Saint Paul Asylum walls, he was able to explore the vast, impressive landscape and inhale the fresh scents of flora that were so vital for his spirit.

chaponval la route de pontoise 1909 1
The Halte Cafe in Chaponval 1909
La Halte de Chaponval
The Halte Cafe in Chaponval 2023

It’s safe to say that most of the paintings Vincent completed in Auvers were of scenes located between his accommodations and Gachet’s house. Sometimes however he ventured a little further afield to places like ? and the Halte Cafe in Chaponval, where he would partake in an alcoholic beverage and converse with the owner with whom he became friends. 

Thatched Sandstone Cottages in Chaponval was painted by Vincent on one of his excursions and its location can be seen today at numbers 7, 9, and 20 rue du Gré.

The road on the right-hand side of the fork leads to the stunning 17th-century, Chateau d’Auvers, which Vincent painted in June 1890. The postcard on the left shows what is now Rue de Zundert, dated from around the turn of the century. Apart from the gas street lighting, I believe it is fair to suggest that this was close to how it appeared in Vincent’s day.

Auvers sur Oise 100 years min

Between 1852 and 1870, Napoleon III continued prioritizing France’s modernization, launching massive development projects that transformed the country and increased trade. He expanded the French railway network from 3,000 kilometers in 1850 to 23,000 within two decades, reducing travel time to hours rather than days. And in the case of travel from Paris to the Oise valley, minutes instead of hours.

Artists began to flock.

During this period, aspiring artists were visiting Auvers-sur-Oise to study where the masters of Impressionism roam. Honoré Daumier rented a house (later purchased for him by Camille Corot) in the nearby village of Valmondois, having spent time there with Théodore Rousseau. Rousseau would also travel to nearby L’Isle Adam to paint with Jules Dupre. Celebrated pastry chef, poet, novelist, printmaker, painter and collector Eugène Murer who amassed a vast collection of impressionist paintings, no less than 122, lived near Dr. Gachet, and died in Auvers in 1906. Hippolyte Delpy, who studied with Daubigny as well as Corot, would spend summers in Auvers aboard Daubigny’s famous studio boat, “Le Botin,” as did the impressionist painter Mademoiselle Léonide Bourges, who became close friends with Daubigny and Corot, and is buried in the same cemetery as Vincent.

Having lived in Auvers-sur-Oise from 1874–1909 and with painting much of the local landscape, one wonders if Madame Bourges ever crossed paths with Vincent. After all, French post-impressionist Louis Hayet, who was born in Pontoise, met Camille Pissarro and his son, Lucien while painting in the countryside surrounding his native town. 

Camille Pissarro had resided in Pontoise on two separate occasions, and in 1881, Paul Gauguin had the opportunity to spend the summer with him where they engaged in collaborative painting sessions. One notable artwork that emerged from this period is Gauguin’s “Pissarro’s Garden, Pontoise”. This is also the time when Gauguin met Paul Cézanne – – Cézanne had moved to Auvers-sur-Oise in 1872 with his wife and child, who were neighbors with Dr. Gachet, while Charles-François Daubigny moved permanently from Paris in 1860.

Armand Guillaumin who was part of the school of Pontoise, together with Béliard, Cézanne, Gauguin, Pissarro and Vignon, would often stay with Dr. Gachet. This was before 1886, when Vincent had established a friendship with Guillaumin. Vincent greatly admired his friends work and expressed his admiration in dozens of letters written between 1888 and 1890.

Norbert Goeneutte, who like Vincent was supported financially by his brother, and who is also buried in the Cimetière d’Auvers-sur-Oise lived by Dr. Gachet of whom he was a patient. 

Renoir too, traveled to Auvers-sur-Oise, occasionally spending several weeks there. In 1887, he stayed at the same inn as French novelist and journalist, Paul Alexis who wrote under the pseudonym Trublot. Maurits van der Valk lived in Auvers sometime between 1890-1893, while French painter and engraver, Charles Beauverie worked and painted in Auvers between 1872 and 1880 and was received by Dr. Gacet and Daubigny

Landscape with the Château of Auvers at Sunset / Landscape at Twilight- June 1890 and present day.

Landscape with the Château of Auvers at Sunset / Landscape at Twilight- June 1890 and present day.

Mr. Theo van Gogh and family sadly announce the loss of Mr Vincent Willem van Gogh, painter, deceased at the age of 37 on 29th July 1890 at Auvers-sur-Oise.

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