Monday, July 11, 2016

Let's Take a Walk


We'll begin on the main street of Auvers sur Oise, beside a park. A statue of an emaciated man with paintbox and easel slung on his back and shoulders dominates the little park. Yes, it's Vincent Van Gogh. 

Let's walk together through this town where he spent the last 70 days of his life.


On this sunny July day, flowers look their best. We slowly wind our way upwards through narrow streets, taking time to admire the colours and textures along the way.


Looking down, we notice metal circles set into the pavement, providing direction to many of the artist's more famous haunts.

There's an unconfirmed, but persistent, piece of history in my family that we are related to Vincent Van Gogh through his mother's family. We often refer to the artist as "Uncle Vince."


We continue upwards and round the corner. There it is - the church made famous by Van Gogh in his painting l'Eglise d'Auvers sur Oise. It looks less impressive to me than the painting. Here it seems to be just a rather ordinary Gothic church. Van Gogh imbued the scene with tortured emotion with his brush strokes and colour choices.


Let's continue on up the road, past the church. Soon we come to the edge of the village. Wheat fields stretch golden into the horizon, almost ready for harvest. Many of the last paintings of Van Gogh feature these fields.


Look to our right. There is a cemetery, surrounded by stone walls, with a metal entrance gate. We enter and make our way to the back of the cemetery. There, against the outer wall, are the graves of Vincent Van Gogh and of his brother, Theo. They loved each other very much, and many, many letters passed between the two of them. Theo was a successful art dealer, Vincent an impoverished painter. Theo supported Vincent throughout his life, and encouraged him in his work. Although Theo had a wife and child in the Netherlands, his wife knew how much the two brothers loved each other and brought Theo here to rest beside Vincent.


Out into the fields we go again, here to stand where Vincent set up his easel and painted the wheat fields with those ominous skies and black crows. Skies are blue today, and the fields empty of crows.


A copy of the painting marks the scene. We make our way back towards the village along a narrow footpath.


Back through charming streets where houses wear brightly painted shutters,


  where alliums bloom against stone,


and roses creep into windows.



We enter the Auberge Ravoux where Vincent boarded in a tiny room reached by a winding dark staircase. No photos are allowed of the room. It is empty save for a single chair. 

Instead, we'll sit for about 10 minutes in another room and watch a movie, wordless, that entwines Van Gogh's paintings with quotes from his letters. It's lovely.



Poor Vincent Van Gogh suffered terribly throughout his short life. Mental illness, loneliness, and poverty dogged him at every turn. Yet, like all of us, he determined to express his thoughts and emotions. Unlike most of us, he did it through his paintings. 

And so, we finish our walk, thinking about love and beauty as people have done throughout time. 

Beside the Auberge Ravoux a tangled garden drowses in the sunlight.

27 comments:

Elizabethd said...

What a lovely experience.

Gina said...

Beautiful photographs and lovely sentiments.

camp and cottage living said...

It's so sad that many artist works are not recognised until they are long gone. I can see where Van Gogh found his inspiration. His addition of vivid colour did much to add to the church and the fields,for sure!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Thanks for sharing 'your lovely experience'! Beautiful.

GretchenJoanna said...

Oh, thank you!!

I had a little bit of this (vicarious) on-site experience of Van Gogh reading The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton, but your personal account is more intimate.

The artist discovered a lot of color in those wheat fields, didn't he? And filled all his paintings with his vivid emotions....

happywonderer.com said...

Looks like a great thorough look into Van Gogh. Beautiful photos!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

How interesting. And I love your beautiful new banner. Enjoy your week! Hugs!

Vee said...

You'll have to tell us more about that family connection. Often when there is a persistent story, there is a basis in fact. Should be interesting to explore. He certainly was a gifted artist and it is interesting to ponder that his illness is what gave him his spark of genius.

podso said...

You made the visit come alive with your word painting. What a thrill to be there.

Gina said...

Lorrie, thank you for hosting this lovely walk. Though Van Gogh had such a difficult life, he was able to bring such beauty for all of us to enjoy.

Marilyn Miller said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. I do feel like I walked with you here.

Pondside said...

What a lovely day that must have been! I imagined I could feel the sunshine as I looked at your beautiful photos.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

A very lovely tour - thank you for taking us along. I learned a lot today.

mamasmercantile said...

You certainly took us once again on a beautiful tour. A wonderful experience.

Cheryl said...

I loved going on that walk with you! Seeing these scenes, familiar from Van Gogh's art, must have been thrilling (particularly since he is "Uncle Vince' to you)!

Maggie said...

So enjoyed our walk through this lovely village today, I think I might persuade the SP to take a drive up and see it for ourselves soon.

Beatrice Euphemie said...

Oh, this is beautiful and sad.....Lovely to see where Van Gogh painted and lived his life, and his final resting place next to his brother. Exciting to think that he is related! x Karen

Barbara said...

Looks like you are having a good and interesting holiday Lorrie.

Deanna Rabe said...

Thank you Lorrie, for taking us along on this walk. My girls are big fans of Van Gogh. I will show them this post, too!

materfamilias said...

Lovely to walk along with you -- and I can't help but think how lucky your students are that you are adding these experiences to what you will teach them. I know these sights and sounds and walks can't help but make abstract facts more engaging when you impart them.

Vee said...

In light of today's events, I will be very happy to hear when you and your beloved are. I think I read in someone's comments that you'd be heading for London soon so I find myself hoping that that is just where you are.

Betty from Comox said...

Thank you Lorrie for giving us the photo's, I feel I have been there.

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

All such lovely scenes :)

Mary said...

I was really hoping you would take that walk through Auvers. Like me you saw all the special places along the way - and I'm so happy the sun was shining for your visit Lorrie.

Anneliese said...

You are having such a wonderful vacation! I love the history, the roses creeping into windows, the bright shutters agains stone houses ... and I think that as a teacher and someone who loves beauty, you appreciate it with all your being.

Helsie said...

Wonderful post Lorrie. Cheers

Happy@Home said...

Seems a shame that someone who left behind such famous works would live such a sad life. Theo sounds like a wonderful brother. Good to know that despite the sadness of his life, at least he had the strong support and love of his brother. Theo's wife also sounds like a kind person.