The Auvers-Sur-Oise Van Gogh Knew

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Day Trip from Paris

Remember when I took you on an unexpectedly adventurous journey from Pontoise to the outskirts of Auvers sur Oise? And I promised you: no more bad surprises?

Today, I am going to keep that promise. 

The Auvers-sur-Oise Van Gogh knew

"An old house in the Auvers sur Oise Van Gogh knew near Paris"

The first thing you will notice when crossing the bridge into Auvers sur Oise is that it looks like the kind of French village that, deep in your heart, you have always felt a French village should look like. It feels as though nothing had changed since, say, 1890.

"A stone house in the Auvers sur Oise Van Gogh knew near Paris"

I am not pulling that year out of my hat. 1890 was the year when a penniless and mentally unstable Dutch painter arrived here, stayed for a couple of months and then killed himself.

It’s a safe bet that his arrival went largely unnoticed and that his passing did not create much of a stir either, but for Auvers sur Oise, nothing since has ever been quite the same.

That painter was, of course, Vincent van Gogh.

"A statue of van Gogh in Auvers sur Oise"

How does a small, rural backwater like Auvers-sur-Oise deal with the status of a global celebrity?

"The tourism office ff Auvers sur Oise"

Incredibly well, all in all.

On the one hand, they have kept the place firmly anchored in the 19th century, at some sacrifice, surely: just think of all the possibilities of crass commercialization.

But on the other hand, they – discreetly and unobtrusively – make sure that the visitors get to see everything they came for – the Auvers sur Oise van Gogh knew The staff in the tourism office are friendly and helpful. Signs direct you to all the places where van Gogh spent some time during his stay in the village ….

"Van Gogh's favourite bar when he was in Auvers sur Oise"

… such as his favourite bar

"Dr Gachet's asylum in Auvers sur Oise"

… and Dr Gachet’s asylum…

… the stations of Vincent’s cross, one might say.

And, of course, to the motives for his paintings.

"The church that served as motif of oen of van Gogh's painting in Auvers sur Oise"

"The City Hall of Auvers sur Oise that served as a motif of one of van Gogh's paintings"

"The now fallow field that served as motif for one of van Gogh's paintings of Auvers sur Oise"

You can see yourself how little has changed over 120 years. A visitor simply cannot expect anything better. 

A visit to the local cemetery, a few minutes out of the village centre, is in many ways the most poignant part of the trip:

"The gravestones on the tombs of Theo and Vincent van Gogh in the cemetery of Auvers sur Oise"

Vincent and his saintly brother Theo, side by side in the simplest of graves.

I had seen the grave on photographs, but was, somewhat to my own surprise, still touched by the deep underlying sadness of it all. I was also unaware that Theo was the younger brother of the two, and that he was only 31 when he died, one year after Vincent.

In a more merciful universe, he might have lived long enough – it would have taken only a little over ten years – to experience his brother’s rise to global fame.

That would have been the scantest of rewards for his superhuman patience and fraternal dedication. But, of course, it was not meant to be.

Why not visit and get to know the Auvers-sur-Oise Van Gogh knew?

This post was submitted to participate in the blog Carnival of Europe hosted by Destination Europe

30 comments to The Auvers-Sur-Oise Van Gogh Knew

  • I don’t know of any over there because we did this walk on a day trip from Paris.

  • Sonja

    Anyone know of a nice cheapish play to stay in or near the village for hikers? We are 4 people, one couple who can share a double, and another 2 female friends who are willing to share but if separate beds – we are British !! :)

  • If it did blow, Agata, it fortunately blew over our heads.

  • I absolutely love this post! And obviously the artist although his life is a very sad story. I wish I went to this city at least once in my life to see it with my own eyes. When you went there did you experience any of these famous winds (mistral, if I’m not wrong) that drive people crazy?

  • The town’s train station is almost right in the centre of town. Get yourself a guide from the Tourism Office and from there you can start. And yes, you can easily walk to all of them. Thanks for dropping by, Eileen.

  • eileen brinn

    how far are van gogh attractions from train station. can you walk to all of them

  • Wow, I always thought he’d be buried somewhere like Pere Lachaise, but now I know where to go for van Gogh. Thanks for sharing this!

  • I wouldn’t live in France and… nice statue of Vincent Van Gogh and nice “Auberge Ravoux”. Je ne voudrais vivoir en France et… j’aime la statue de Vincent Van Gogh et l’Auberge Ravoux.

  • That’s quite an intense experience. France is probably calling you. Perhaps time to look around for a flat in Auvers sur Oise?

  • James Caires

    My wife and I are avid travelers. While in Paris recently, on Sept. 19th,we took a day trip to Auvers sur Oise. Because of our interest in Vincent. While there I had one of the most deeply moving experiences I have ever had! I feel that I left a part of me there, and I took part of the town, it’s wonderful people, And my Vincent experience with me. As the saying goes…”If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand!” We hope to get back sometime again. Thanks for the photos, great!

  • It’ll be a good day trip, Andrea.

  • I didn’t realise Auvers sur Oise is so close to Paris. I’ll add it to my list of Paris day trips.

  • I love Van Gogh and charming French villages so this would be a wonderful place to visit. It’s like a Van Gogh living museum. What a great little day trip to take. Thanks for sharing and putting this on my list.

  • The remarkable thing about it, Deej, is that they’ve not resorted to crass marketing and commercialism. They’ve kept the town rather discreet while helping the tourists experience the place van Gogh discovered then.

  • As a lover of Van Gogh, I will definitely have to put this on my list. Neat how they have held on to their roots and not let their place in history change things…

  • It’s a very charming town not far from Paris. It’s an ideal day trip destination.

  • I had never heard of Auvers sur Oise before. I guess I’d never actually stopped think about where Van Gogh died… just about his work.
    Looks like an awesome place to visit. Thanks for the post – now Auvers sur Oise is going on my (increasing) to-go list! :)

  • Coming from a great photographer like you, that’s a big compliment. Thanks, Jeff.

  • Wow, your pictures are stunning. I could live here it’s so beautiful. Must visit someday!!

  • It looks like quite an ordinary village. Amazing how history can change a place forever.

  • Anna

    That must be such a sweet and wonderful village! Like a scenery from a fairy tale… I really like those old stone buildings and those stairs. I wish I ever had the chance to get there…

  • It is a rather sad story, don’t you think, Cathy?

  • You are absolutely right, Debbie. This is the perfect day trip from Paris.

  • Close, Leigh. But all in all, it is a charming little town, perhaps a little more bucolic 120 years ago.

  • What a beautiful little village. I think Van Gogh’s work look better than the real thing!

  • One of my most memorable trips was to Auvers sur Oise! Lovely village and a great place to learn more about Van Gogh. The best part, it is only a short distance from Paris.

  • Yes, Auvers sur Oise is exactly how I picture a French village should look. I’d love to walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps here. I remember my father giving me a wonderful book about Van Gogh after he had come across the touching story of Theo and Vincent.

  • And thank you for dropping by, Jack.

  • Thank you for these photos. Van Gogh touches me as not other artist ever has. Seeing these almost places me in his shoes.

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