September 23, 2016


Auvers-sur-Oise is the little French village where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last 2 1/2 months of his life. He had come to Auvers-sur-Oise so that he could be treated by a physician he held in high esteem. For the short while that he lived in Auvers-sur-Oise  Van Gogh painted so many works that it has come to be known as his most productive period.  Walking around in modern times, it takes very little imagination to picture what it must have been like in Van Gogh's day. The village has maintained many of the features recognizable in Van Gogh's paintings. 
To get to Auvers-sur-Oise, take a transilien train from either Gare du Nord or Gare St. Lazare in Paris, with a change at Pontoise (one hour). There is a direct train on Saturdays (half an hour), one heading to Auvers-sur-Oise in the morning and one heading back to Paris in the afternoon.
All the sites are within walking distance from one another. One can easily spend a leisurely day walking in Van Gogh's footsteps and seeing what he saw when he was inspired to paint.
Upon exiting the train station, turn left and walk down the street to a little park which has a statue of Van Gogh. Beyond the statue is the tourist center, which provides free maps and helpful information. It also has very clean bathrooms. 
Behind the tourist center go up some steps to the street and turn right. Less than 10 minutes' walk away is the church depicted in a painting hanging in the Musee D'Orsay. The street takes you to the back. Go up some steps and you will come to the courtyard of the church. Go around to the front and you will see the viewpoint from which Van Gogh painted, probably now occupied by art students busily sketching. 
With your back to the church, turn left.  You will come to a fork with street signs. One of them should have an arrow pointing to the right for the graveyard.  This is beautiful 10-minute walk which takes you to the graveyard where Vincent and his brother, Theo, are buried, in the middle of wheat fields.  Their graves are up against the wall of the graveyard.
Exit the graveyard by the gate nearest their graves and turn left. A few minutes down the path is a small clearing, marked by a sign indicating where Van Gogh painted the wheat fields in the summer.
At that intersection, take the right path to go back to the village and the main road. Up that road, where there are restaurants and stores is the building where Van Gogh rented a room on the second floor, above a restaurant.  It is still a restaurant and the upstairs has been converted to a museum dedicated to Van Gogh's life. The small room he rented and where he died has been kept empty of any furnishings. It is as it was when Van Gogh lived there, down to the holes in the walls where he hung his paintings.
The day trip to Auvers-sur-Oise was an unexpected highlight of my last trip to France. Quiet and beautiful, and lacking the tourist throngs, Auvers-sur-Oise was a delight. I had chills walking the same fields and streets that Van Gogh walked and seeing everything that he saw. There was profound sadness too, realizing that although he walked in so much beauty, ultimately, his demons overcame him. He shot himself in the very fields he immortalized on canvas, never knowing the fame and acclaim that would follow his death.

No comments:

Post a Comment