A Rainy Day in May Visiting Auvers sur Oise

 

See links below this introduction to go to photo pages.

 

Auvers sur Oise is just beyond the edge of the Paris suburbs, it is still a small town along a river, it is still living its own life.

 

The town has its own life, but that life is inexorably linked to the life of its very large neighbor to the south: Paris.  

 

This is like it was just over a hundred years ago, when a plea was sent by Vincent to his Parisian brother, Theo. The plea led Theo to make arrangements for Vincent to come from Southern France and live in Auvers.

 

Vincent was an artist making a great many paintings that he would trade for meals, lodging, and painting supplies. Occasionally he made a more worthwhile sale.

 

He had a serious illness, perhaps epilepsy, maybe he was also a manic-depressive spiraling inexorably, at that time, into blackness and suicide. He had committed himself to an asylum in southern France voluntarily because he feared for his own well-being. There he painted profusely, and his pain showed in his paintings.  After a time, he wanted to leave.

 

What Theo did for his brother was to hook him up with a doctor, Dr. Gachet, who was also an artist. This appealed to Vincent, so he traveled north to meet the doctor and settle into Auvers sur Oise.

 

The Van Gogh brothers were born and raised in Holland. Vincent missed the lush greenery and watery ways of his native land.  Auvers filled the bill on that score.

 

He painted 78 canvasses in the seventy days he was there, at the advice of his new physician who told him painting, creating, was the key to his maintaining his health.

 

Vincent took that advice and traveled, mostly on foot, all around and through Auvers, painting scene after scene.

 

Whether you are a fan of Vincent Van Gogh’s work or not, one cannot deny the mastery of the man in placing emotion into his work, even if it is often a dark emotion that was in his mind only, not either in his landscape, or in the people he was with.

 

An "aside" observation:

 

[What colored Vincent's art, inner darkness and pain, is an important thing for all of us to remember at times. What we see is a function not only of how light is reflected into our eyes from whatever object we are seeing, it is also a function of the state of health of the body in which we live, which influences our interpretations of such reflections.

 

If we are in love, all pleasant things are brighter and more beautiful to us. If we are in fear all things that may not be inherently pleasant carry a threat and foreboding when interpreted in our minds. And if we hate, there is no grand scene or tiny sparkling flower that can pull us into ecstasy.

 

Hell may be when we are in a place in our hearts and minds that is akin to being in love, while surrounded by others who are filled with the depression of fear or other debilitating states of mind like hate or envy or overwhelming uncertainty. Love is so powerful and empowering it makes it hard to be around people not basking in that inner light. I am sure we have at times been on one side of that equation or the other. There is a path to being and staying in love, but that is not the subject of this set of pages.]

 

At Auvers-sur-Oise, the two brother are buried, next to each other. One died of a gunshot wound to the head, by his own hand. He did not die instantly, and when his brother had been sent for and arrived from Paris the next day, Vincent died in his arms. The brother, Theo, died from an illness, no doubt aggravated by the untimely death of his only brother.

 

In the woods at Auvers I saw two rather dark and wild trees [shown in photo page #4 linked below], with branches reaching out in every direction as if something was not right in the spot where they had been planted by fate.

 

Behind them stood a straight, light colored, and light- absorbing tree that reminded me of Theo’s wife, no doubt standing there never realizing what her husband and brother in-law were not seeing that she could so clearly see: life-giving light.   

 

Nearby stands a similar tree, much younger, also basking in light just feet from where its 'father' and 'uncle' stand groping in the dark.  This I felt to be symbolic of the child Theo and his wife were raising together until his premature demise.

 

Theo’s demise, it is speculated, was hastened by the consequences of having visited houses of ill repute in Paris. To me that simply underscores that Theo was also searching for light, just as his painter brother was, and also couldn’t see it.

 

I am imagining that Theo’s wife lived though a rather devastating year, with first her brother in law and then her husband dying. I don’t know what became of her and Theo’s child, but only hope that, unlike the Van Gogh brothers, who were strangers in a strange land, she was well anchored by a caring family that lived not far away.


Her grave is not at Auvers, leading me to speculate she may have remarried and found stability and happiness. I choose to hope that was the case.  The bright, straight trees symbolizing her and her child to me, confirm my choice of hope for their lives.


So, I came here to see the two graves with the ivy entwining them, symbolizing the brothers’ caring and devotion to each other during their short lives. I did that. But Auvers was not just the place made famous by Van Gogh spending his last few years there. It was also a magnet for other artists, especially impressionists and pre-impressionists who painted farms, woods, the river, buildings and people in this very pleasant setting.

 

So let us do here what I did on that one very rainy day in may. Let us first pay our respects to the two brothers by visiting their graves. Then we will look at some other things pertaining to Vincent’s moments of happiness in this place (but I ran out of time and energy and bypassed the house with his room, sorry  --visit Auvers and do it yourself!).

 

And then we will pretend to be impressionists. and will look for scenes worthy of memorializing on our own 'e-canvasses' with bright splotches of 'pixel-paint' that give the essence of what things mean to us, not what they are. Just like Vincent.

 

NEXT: Auvers Photo Page 0:  Arriving in Auvers sur Oise

 Auvers Photo Page 1:  The Van Gogh Brothers' Graves

 Auvers Photo Page 2:  The Chateau and its Gardens

 Auvers Photo Page 3:  The Woods Around the Chateau 1

 Auvers Photo Page 4:  The Woods Around the Chateau 2

 Auvers Photo Page 5:  The Woods Around the Chateau 3 (and back to town)

 Auvers Photo Page 6:  Doctor Gachet's House

 Auvers Photo Page 7:  The Walk to the Oise River

 Auvers Photo Page 8:  The Oise River 1

 Auvers Photo Page 9:  The Oise River 2

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