Paris is a city one of its kind and has plenty of attractions to offers to tourist, including the greatest world’s museums and cultural spots. But if you only wish to dive more into past artistic life, you should definitely take a day-trip to Auvers-sur-Oise. This little town is recognizable for hosting a great artist at the end of his life – Vincent Van Gogh.
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Auvers-sur-Oise – the calm French city
When you have had enough of the hustle and bustle of Paris, visiting the French countryside will be a perfect idea. Auvers-sur-Oise is a typical small charming French town. Its center is small enough to walk it around on feet. Lovely houses made of stone, which is typical in French suburbs, create an idyllic picture of an unhurried life.
Besides our main interest – Van Gogh’s path – Auvers-sur-Oise has some other interesting spots to offer. To enjoy some distinguished entertainment you can visit Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise. In this small yet elegant palace, you can visit an interactive exhibition about the impressionists.
The other curious place is the Absynth Museum. There you can discover more about this extraordinary drink being the symbol of the Belle Epoque and one of the favorite beverage of artists and poets. You will also “discover its importance in the social and cultural life of the XIX century”.
The most peculiar guest
But the actual reason of why Auvers-sur-Oise is something more than an ordinary French town lies in somewhere else. Mostly on the wheat fields.
It was Auvers-sur-Oise where Vincent Van Gogh spend the last weeks of his life.
Vincent came to the town on May 20, 1890. He just came back from the asylum in Saint-Rémy in the South of France. After spending time on psychiatric treatment, he wanted to exist nearby his brother, Théo and his family, which were living in Paris at that time.
Auvers-sur-Oise was a perfect place for the artist. The peace of countryside soothed his disturbed senses even besides the fact that he was seen as a weirdo in a local community. Finally, he had time to paint with no distractions and focus on it entirely. Moreover, he continued his mental treatment under the care of Dr. Paul Gachet who became Vincent’s friend.
In this small French town, the artist created some of his most exceptional masterpieces. Crows Over Wheatfield, the Portrait of Dr. Gachet and Church at Auvers was born in here. It looked like Van Gogh finally found his peace of mind. He also confirmed it in many letters that he wrote to his younger brother.
Nothing indicated the impending tragedy.
The mysterious death of Van Gogh
For years everyone believed that Vincent Van Gogh has commited a suicide.
One day he left the auberge where he was renting a tiny room. At the end of this day, he came back, almost crawling. The innkeeper with his family helped the artist reach his bed on the third floor, discovering a gunshot wound in his stomach.
Van Gogh claimed to shot himself with a borrowed revolver to end his miserable life. Indeed, he passed away two days after because of infection. He died in arms of his beloved brother Théo, who came from Paris.
The funeral took place a day after, on July 30, 1890. The local priest refused to celebrate a mass for the deceased’s intention because those days suicides did not deserve it. So Vincent Van Gogh was buried in a local cemetery in humble assistance of his family and few friends.
Théo Van Gogh was desperate after his brother’s death. He died only a few months later. After many years, his wife – Johanna – decided to move his body from Holland to Auvers-sur-Oise. So until today, both brothers rest among golden fields of the French countryside.
Unexpected murder theory
Everyone believes Vincent Van Gogh had such huge mental problems that he committed suicide. But last years a new theory appeared on the horizon. A theory of murder.
In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith publish their book: Van Gogh. The Life. They dispute all we knew about the last hours of the artist’s life. They claim he was murdered by accident and they have some really convincing arguments.
First of all, Vincent was a truly effusive person. He poured all his emotions onto paper in letters to Théo. And those last ones did not demonstrate any anxiety. In contrary, Vincent was quite happy in Auvers-sur-Oise and he was making many plans for future paintings. There were no signs of any suicidal thoughts.
The second thing: the gun was never found. Vincent did not have it with him when he came back to the Auberge, and no one could find it in the field, where he claimed he had shot himself. Moreover, the wound he gave himself was at least weird. Suicides usually shot at temple or mouth. Because shooting at stomach means a long and painful death, as it was in Vincent’s case. So his wound looked more like shot from a distance.
So what happened?
But who was the murder? According to the biographers it was probably an unfortunate accident. Well, at the same time, some boys were spending a vacation in the town. They were kind of troublemakers. They were also known for playing with borrowed guns by shooting birds. Of course, a local weirdo was a perfect target for their jokes.
So Van Gogh most probably was in the wrong place at the bad time. But why he didn’t tell anyone about the accident? Most probably, he only wanted to save the boys which in fact didn’t want to hurt him that much. Perhaps he was even grateful to them to end his life, which in his opinion was not worth much.
If you want to totally dive into this story I recommend you read the whole biography of Vincent Van Gogh by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. Van Gogh. The Life. reveals the extraordinary facts about the artist including the murder theory with arguments and fragments of letter correspondence with Théo. Hundreds of pages of the inspiring story.
Van Gogh’s tracks in Auvers-sur-Oise
Even if the story of Vincent Van Gogh was not glorious but sad, Auvers-sur-Oise is definitely worth visiting. Despite the fact that there not even one of Van Gogh’s painting in the city, you will have the opportunity to feel his spirit like no elsewhere in the world.
While walking the streets you will be finding small signs of most important spots. The medaillons fitted in the ground will show you the places where Van Gogh himself was standing years ago. You will also discover the boards with his painting in front of the original landscapes.
You will follow the artist’s trail from Dr. Gachet’ house, by the real Auberge Ravoux where he rented a tiny room at the attic (which you can actually visit), up to the hill, where the cemetery is located. There you can place some flowers collected from the nearby field and place them on Vincent’s grave.
This experience is truly unique and is so different than noises and queues of big cities’ museum. In the warm sun of the French countryside, you will discover the last paths of the great painter on your own pace. The wonderful adventure.
How to get to Auvers-sur-Oise?
Auvers-sur-Oise is located to the North from Paris, around 1 hour by car. Here you can find some tips about driving a car in France. But it is also possible to reach it with public transport. All you need to do is to take a train from Saint-Lazare or Gare du Nord and take the Pointoise direction. There you need to change the train for the Persan-Beaumont and leave it at the Auvers station. Remember that it is the 5th zone of Paris public transport, so be sure to buy the right ticket.
The day-trip to Auvers-sur-Oise is a perfect way to spent time around Paris. And what is your favorite place to meet Van Gogh’s spirit?
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Dominika is a founder of Sunday In Wonderland and she recently switched her life to be local independent. She aims to travel the world and admire all of its wonders. She is much focused on sustainable life, self-development and making this world a better place.