July 24th, Auvers-Sur-Oise, France
Our ship actually docked in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, which sits at the junction of the Seine and Oise rivers. We are only about 15 miles North West of Paris as the crow flies.
This will be our jump off point to travel the short distance to Auvers-Sur-Oise to continue tracing the history and artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. In fact, the two-hour walking tour we have planned for this morning was titled, “Vincent Van Gogh’s Footsteps”.
Auvers-Sur-Oise is where Vincent spent the last two plus months of his life from May to July 1890, and where he and his brother, Theo are buried. Some of his most well-known works were done here. He was very prolific in his final days, doing 70-80 paintings (the numbers vary in different articles) in his last 70 days.
What was especially interesting to me was looking at a copy of one of his paintings, placed at the location from which it was painted. In many cases, how Vincent interpreted the scene was loose, more colorful and slightly abstract or wonkie, yet the painted image leaves no doubt of its content.
We were eager to see more.
These next few will take a bit more imagination as the original settings have now become overgrown, building blocked from view, or otherwise changed.
One of his final paintings was “Wheat fields with crows”. Vincent was in a dark place in his final days and had come to Auvers to be treated by Dr. Gachet, whom he described thusly:
“I have seen Dr. Gachet, who made the impression on me of being rather eccentric, but his experience as a doctor must keep him balanced while fighting the nervous trouble from which he certainly seems to me to be suffering at least as seriously as I.”
It was perhaps in these very fields that only a few days later Vincent shot himself in the chest, after which he returned to the Auberge Ravoux, where he died two days later due to infection that had set into the wound.
There is still a mystery surrounding his death, as the gun was never found.
Van Gogh’s brother Theo died only six months later and was originally buried elsewhere, but Theo’s widow had his body exhumed and moved to remain beside him.
I can certainly see how the town itself would have been inspirational to any artist.
I found this YouTube clip that includes some of Vincent’s quotes very interesting and wanted to share it as well. Make sure to click on the full screen button to better enjoy it.
Gratitude Moment: We still have a LONG way to go when it comes to diagnosis, education, treatment, public acceptance and knowledge of mental illness. However, I am grateful that there is more help and better treatment available now than there was back in the 1890’s. I remain hopeful that someday the stigma associated with mental illness will be replaced with love, compassion and understanding.