Dive into the online collection and explore the artworks that Vincent van Gogh created in Auvers-sur-Oise.
The countryside around Auvers-sur-Oise felt entirely familiar to Vincent van Gogh. It reminded him of his childhood in North Brabant and gave him a sense of security. The old houses with thatched roofs were especially appealing to him. He captured them frequently, painting them rapidly in fresh colours.
The most beautiful building of all in Auvers, though, was the village church. Van Gogh wrote of his painting of it, ‘the building appears purplish against a sky of a deep and simple blue of pure cobalt’. He compared the work with his 1885 painting of the old church in Nuenen.
Did you know that Van Gogh also etched? He produced his first and only etching in Auvers with the help of Dr Paul Gachet. The doctor and art lover supported Van Gogh, who had only recently been discharged from a mental institution. Gachet kept an etching press in his house and created etchings of his own.
Van Gogh visited the doctor’s home every Sunday and Monday for lunch and to paint. On Sunday 15 June 1890, the two men smoked a pipe in the garden after lunch, while Van Gogh captured his host on a copper plate. They later printed the etching together, with Van Gogh experimenting with different colours. As you can see, this did not always go smoothly.
When Van Gogh arrived in Auvers on 20 May, it was ‘sunny and covered with flowers’ and there was ‘beautiful greenery in abundance’. It inspired him to paint colourful gardens, vineyards and flowering chestnut trees. The big trees were close to the inn where he was staying.
Chestnut branches must have been blown off during a storm and were picked up by Van Gogh, who painted them against a bright blue background. If you look carefully, you will see that the branches have been placed in a pale pink vase. The result is a wonderful evocation of the vitality and energy of nature in springtime. What other Van Gogh painting does this remind you of?
Van Gogh painted several exceptional portraits in Auvers. He set out to depict the soul of the person portrayed, ‘using as a means of expression and intensification of the character our science and modern taste for colour [...] I’ve done a portrait of a young girl, in blue against a blue background.’
The girl in question was Adeline Ravoux, the 12-year-old daughter of the landlord of the inn where Van Gogh was lodging. Many years later, she recalled posing for him. Van Gogh did not speak a word, she said, but smoked his pipe non-stop. He signed the canvas and gave it to her. Adeline did not think it a good likeness at all. Compare the portrait with a later photo of her: do you think she was right?
In the final weeks of his life, Van Gogh completed an impressive series of landscapes on the plateau above Auvers. The paintings are 50 cm high and a metre wide, an entirely new format of canvas that he had not previously used. He painted no fewer than 12 of them, with the last two left unfinished.
Elongated paintings like this gave Van Gogh an opportunity to experiment with vastness and depth. Perfect for the expansive wheatfields, although he used the canvases for other subjects too. He managed to capture the all-encompassing character of nature in these empty, desolate landscapes: its beauty and vitality, but also the unease and loneliness it can evoke.