We all know that France and, in particular, the area outside Paris are full of sights related to famous painters. I want to tell you about an experience I had that really opened the world of art to me. First, you need to know that I am not an art or museum person. I am not the one spending hours and hours in every museum in town but this experience made be rethink art and museums.
A few years back I had the opportunity to visit France with the French Government Tourist Bureau. Part of the trip included the most exciting and enlightening 2 days of art appreciation I have ever experienced. The first part was a trip to a sleepy little village about 15 miles northwest of Paris, Auvers sur Oise. Auvers sur Oise is a French village that was popular with many 19th century artists including Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh spent his last 70 days in Auvers and, in fact, during this short time painted 70 paintings of Auvers and the surroundings.
We started our tour of the village at the Auberge Ravoux or House of Van Gogh. This is where Van Gogh stayed while in Auvers and is also where he died from a self inflicted gun shot wound. You are able to view the room where he died, room 5, but my favorite part of this visit was seeing the short film on Van Gogh. After seeing the film about his life and depression I felt as if I had a little vision into his mind and could see why his paintings are so dark and skewed. His paintings are a true reflection of what he was feeling and what was in his mind.
After touring the House of Van Gogh and seeing the film we went to Dr. Gachet’s house. Dr. Gachet was an art lover and Van Gogh’s doctor while in Auvers. Van Gogh spent a fair amount of time painting the grounds of Dr. Gachet’s home. I vividly remember seeing the gardens and a copy of Van Gogh’s interpretation on a stand next to it. It was amazing to be able to alternate between seeing the actual subject and the painting at the same time!
Walking up to the cemetery where Van Gogh and his brother are buried we passed the Romanesque/Gothic church that was the subject of another of Van Gogh’s pieces. Here also is another opportunity to view the subject and the interpretation. Later, we had a wonderful lunch at Le Cordeville restaurant, which is a place Van Gogh frequented while in Auvers sur Oise.
The next day we visited the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Even if you do not spend time viewing the art, you should visit this museum for the architecture alone! I digress, during our visit to the museum I enjoyed viewing the Impressionist art collection including artists like Monte, Manet, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Again I was really mesmerized by Van Gogh’s art, in part, due to the insight I had gained in Auvers. While viewing Van Gogh’s pieces I could feel his despair.
So, as a non-art lover I highly recommend a visit to Auvers and then the Musee d’Orsay. Visiting these two locations was very exciting and informative for me. I had never experienced art come to life but it did due to the insight I gained in Auvers sur Oise about Van Gogh. I really didn’t (still don’t) know very much about Van Gogh’s art but after visiting Auvers I am a fan!
Do you have any “art appreciation” stories??