Few Towns spark the imagination more than Auvers-Sur-Oise. About an hour by train, from the bustle of Gare Du Nord in Paris, lies the quiet village of Auvers, by the River Oise; a place where art history comes alive.
Auvers-Sur-Oise is the town that artist, Vincent Van Gogh spent his last few years. It’s where he is buried, alongside his beloved brother, Theo. However it’s not just a grave you’d see by visiting, the entire town, remains exactly as Vincent painted it.
If you’re familiar with his work, the architecture of the town, the trees, the colours-everything is straight out of a Van Gogh painting. To the casual eye, it’s a white square building, a French sign, a tall tree; but to any art lover, it’s like stepping into a fantasy world.
From The Church at Auvers to Wheatfield with Crows, everything remains as he saw it. There’s plaques throughout the town, showing you where he would have stood to paint it, along with a picture showing Van Gogh’s interpretation of the view.
I’ve visited multiple Van Gogh sites like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Cafe and Hospital in Arles and been lucky enough to visit multiple exhibitions of his artworks around the world, but none compare to standing where he stood, looking at the object he painted, with thoughts disappearing into the colourful world as he saw it.
If you’ve seen the movie, Loving Vincent, much of the film was set around
Auvers-Sur-Oise and therefore gives you a good idea of all the paintings he created whilst living there. Each film scene twists and slides from one painting to the next to tell the story of his last few days alive. Another movie, Of Wheat Fields and Clouded Skies looks deeper at some of his paintings from that period, held in the second largest collection of his artwork at the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands.
Dr Gachet’s house is also found in Auvers-Sur-Oise.
At Dr Gachet’s house you can wander the gardens which were tendered to by his wife, who also appears in a portrait painted by Van Gogh. In town there’s also an absinthe museum (his favourite tipple) and the restaurant and bar that Van Gogh became a regular at, relaxing of an evening after a day spent painting.
Whilst there’s also a museum in Auvers-Sur-Oise, referred to as Van Gogh’s room, it’s the room where he died-not to be confused with his bright colourful painting The bedroom at Arles which was his room in the Yellow House he shared with fellow artist, Paul Gaugin. Arles is in the South of France.
The town is small enough you could wander around it in a few hours and head back to Paris, but I stayed overnight. There’s some beautiful guesthouses there, especially The Hotel des Iris which has vibrant Vincent Van Gogh inspired rooms including a yellow sunflowers Room, A pink cherry blossom room and a purple iris decorated room.
Unlike Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, Auvers-Sur-Oise is quieter and generally receives less tourists, and there were no tour buses whilst I was there. This allows you to become immersed in the scenery and find your own creativity. However it also means not all of the museums are open, when they’re supposed to be. It’s best to phone ahead and avoid Mondays and Tuesdays as most things are closed.
You can however still wander around Auvers-Sur-Oise, marvel at the surrounding fields and architecture. All of that is accessible regardless, as is the cemetery where you can make a sketching of Van Gogh’s ivy covered grave.
Many of the paintings created around Auvers-Sur-Oise can be seen at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Anyone who’s seen a Van Gogh painting in real-life will attest that any recreation in a book, online or in a film, does no justice to the blazing colours experienced when seeing a painting of his in front of you. I still remember gazing upon, The Church at Auvers and I must have stood for twenty minutes, lost in thought, taking it all in. To my eyes it was like eating chocolate for the first time. Whilst not as crowded as the Louvre, it can get busy in peak periods at the Musée d’Orsay so it’s best to Book Online and Skip The Queues or Opt for a Guided Tour.
Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
Throughout his life, Vincent wrote numerous letters to his brother, Theo Van Gogh. A selection of which are presented, in order in this semi-biography. It’s a chance to hear his voice, read his words, and understand the genius behind the canvas. I received this for my 21st Birthday and carried it all around Europe. A fascinating insight into who he was, the struggles he faced, and the people who inspired him.
Burnadette Murphy: Van Gogh’s Ear – The True Story
I bought this book for my mum as she’s a huge Vincent Van Gogh fan. She has a phone case, socks, tea cups, artwork, clothing, earrings, shoes, toiletry bags; anything she can find with Van Gogh she has. She never finished this book, so I’m about to read it, and I’ll update what I thought.
Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings
The only book to display every known work of art of Vincent Van Gogh. Trace his early sketches, then his discovery of colour, before his vibrant final works that changed art forever.
Lonely Planet Guidebook: France
If you’re visiting France, travelling independently then the Lonely Planet Guidebook is a must. I’ve been using them since my first big trip at 11 years old and I wouldn’t go anywhere without one. From accommodation to meals, from attractions to transport and maps-this book has it all. It works regardless of electricity adaptor, without wifi and even on a plane. Amazing.
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Maison De Van Gogh (Van Gogh’s Room where he died)
Train Timetable/Fares: Paris Gare Du Nord to Auvers-Sur-Oise
Tourist Information Auvers-Sur-Oise
Vincent Van Gogh Paintings at the Musée d’Orsay