We travel to the petit riverside village to visit Van Gogh’s home and to see for ourselves what inspired 90 of his finest works. Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to be near his brother Theo and to be treated by Dr. Gachet, and I presume it is just lucky for us appreciators that the medieval village is so rustic and charming. Sprightly, sanguine color is around every bend: fuchsia shutters, a bright yellow 1960s car pulled up along a tall stone wall, an azure front door, tall flowers that seem to sprout from the pavement with delicate ease only the French are capable of. Inside the museum, we climb the narrow staircase to Vincent’s room, no bigger than a walk-in closet with no window. It is a wonder that Van Gogh was able to spew so much vision, creativity, and color, when his sleeping arrangements were so dark, plain, and dungeon-like. One travel companion had to backtrack her way down the stairs, it was so claustrophobic.
After backing down the narrow staircase, we climb the hill behind Auberge Ravoux. Narrow lanes converge and stone houses with painted shutters line the pavement. These are the structures that inspired Van Gogh to create bounteous scenic masterpieces. With each plateau in the hill, we are rewarded with an entrancing view.
The village is very quiet. The only other pedestrians we encounter are fellow tourists and day-trippers, which I imagine can be quite annoying for those in residence. We come upon one four-legged traveler next to the church. The hound is sitting majestically on a stone wall, and I approach him to take a photo. My cooing and high-pitch noises are met with angry barking and a nearly full-on attack. I retreat. Maybe this is the neighborhood’s attempt to keep the crowds moving. We continue our pilgrimage up the hill toward the cemetery.
The cemetery abuts an open field which I imagine must have been quite ravishing in Van Gogh’s day, fully planted and blowing in the summer winds. A copy of one of his interpretations of the field is hung on the cement wall, and it feels other-worldly to view precisely what Van Gogh viewed when creating this painting. His vibrant vision is incomparable, and this realization weighs heavy on my heart as I approach his humble gravestone. Mr. Van Gogh was mentally ill indeed, and he struggled so with his bi-polar disorder, but if this disease did not take hold of him the way that it did, would his art have been so engaging, so lovely?