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Auvers-sur-Oise is a picturesque small town near Paris, with some interesting things to see and do. Located 35 km north of Paris, this town is very easy to reach by public transportation, which makes Auvers one of the best day trips from Paris to see a bit of the French countryside.
By the end of the 19th century, this beautiful and peaceful town attired many artists, especially the Impressionists. People like Cézanne, Pissarro, Sisley, or Monet lived or frequented Auvers-sur-Oise and painted its landscapes on some of their masterworks. For this reason, Auvers-sur-Oise is known as “La Ville des Impressionistes”.
But most of all, Auvers is related to Vincent Van Gogh. The Dutch painter discovered Auvers by the end of his life and although he lived in Auvers less than two months he painted 70 works in Auvers, most of them related to the town and its landscapes.
Vincent Van Gogh – The Church at Auvers
Van Gogh’s most famous painting in Auvers is “The Church at Auvers”. This canvas was painted in June 1890 and it is now displayed at Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
The model of this painting is the Auvers-sur-Oise church, a picturesque Gothic building (12-13th century) located at Place de l’Eglise. This is how Van Gogh described the church and his work in a letter sent to his sister on 5th June 1890:
I have a larger picture of the village church — an effect in which the building appears to be violet-hued against a sky of simple deep blue color, pure cobalt; the stained-glass windows appear as ultramarine blotches, the roof is violet and partly orange. In the foreground some green plants in bloom, and sand with the pink flow of sunshine in it. And once again it is nearly the same thing as the studies I did in Nuenen of the old tower and the cemetery, only it is probably that now the color is more expressive, more sumptuous.
In this painting, we can see some similarities (at least in the composition) to Millet’s painting The Church of Gréville, also displayed at Orsay. Van Gogh was a big fan of Jean-François Millet, one of the founders of the Barbizon School, and he collected prints and pictures of his work. He copied the compositions of his predecessor many times or – like for the Church at Auvers – he was inspired by the painter’s subjects.
On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. Van Gogh managed to go back to his hostel room in Auvers where he died 30 hours after the incident.
The painters’ community learned about Van Gogh’s death with sadness. Theo Van Gogh, Vincent’s brother, wanted to organize the funeral in the church at Auvers, so dear to Vincent. However, the priest refused categorically: Van Gogh was protestant plus he committed suicide! In the end, Theo had to modify the funeral invitations manually and the ceremony took place in the inn’s room, surrounded by his last canvases and masses of yellow flowers including dahlias and sunflowers.
Vincent Van Gogh rests forever, together with his brother, in the town cemetery not far from the church. Near the tomb but out of frame, there are a couple of sunflowers, the flowers so cherished by Van Gogh.
Van Gogh and Dr. Gachet
Dr. Paul Gachet was a French physician living in a beautiful house in Auvers. He was one of Vincent’s few friends and he treated Vincent Van Gogh during his last weeks of his life.
Gachet was also an amateur painter and had treated several other artists in the past. Van Gogh’s first impression was that Gachet was “sicker than I am, it seemed to me, or let’s say just as much”. However, Van Gogh enjoyed Gachet’s company in Auvers and soon they became friends.
It was common to see Van Gogh at Dr. Gachet’s house and he painted some portraits for Gachet himself and his family. Van Gogh also painted Dr. Gachet’s house and its beautiful garden, full of colorful flowers and medicinal plants.
Dr. Gachet’s house is today a cute small museum (free entrance) which houses small art exhibitions. The garden is still the most beautiful part of the house and it is great to seat on a bench, have a rest and admire its landscape.
Other Van Gogh Paintings in Auvers-sur-Oise
Despite his fragile health, Van Gogh left a rich collection of canvas in Auvers. Today visitors still can see Auvers through Van Gogh’s eyes thanks to his paintings.
First, he was captivated by the fields in May, when the wheat was young and green (Wheatfields with crows). Also, he painted Auvers’ Town Hall, which he could see from his window in the inn.
Other Interesting Sights in Auvers-sur-Oise
THE PAINTERS’ PATHWAY
The Painters’ Pathway is a self-guided walk (actually it’s two self-guided walks, red and green walks) that connect a number of views that appear in some paintings by the Impressionists.
The local Tourism Office installed on each exact spot a plaque with a reproduction of the canvas so you can compare the real view to its artistic representation. As you can see in some of the pictures, some spots have not changed that much in the last century.
After the walk, it is possible to go back to the town center along the Oise River. This is a beautiful and shady walk.
During his stay at Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890, Van Gogh rented a room at Auberge Ravoux. It was in this room where Van Gogh died from a gunshot.
After Van Gogh ‘s death, the owners emptied the room and never rented it again. Today Auverge Ravoux works as a restaurant but the owners still preserve Van Gogh’s empty room, which can be visited for 6€.
If you check their website, they don’t talk about tourists or visitors but pilgrims who come from all over the world to the room to feel the painter’s spirit. We don’t want to offend anybody but it’s just an empty room, with views over the Town Hall.
THE ABSINTHE MUSEUM
This quirky museum was born thanks to its founder’s curiosity when she found a “strange spoon” in a flea market. Since that moment she started collecting everything related to this mythical drink, also known as “fée verte” (the green fairy).
The collection allows visitors to understand the absinthe’s importance in the social and cultural life in France in the 19th century. Some of the Impressionist artists drank a lot of it.
The downside of this fascinating museum is the owner herself. Inside the museum taking pictures is strictly forbidden and I remember the owner following us everywhere to be sure we did not take any, making us feel very uncomfortable.
Difficult to believe, but Auvers-sur-Oise has also troglodyte houses! Built on a hillside, the village of Auvers accounts for numerous cave dwellings.
The development of these cave-houses is related to the exploitation of stone quarries in the area until the late 19th century. Entire families of workers on construction sites used these large openings in the stones to live.
Dr. Gachet’s house also had one of these cave-houses in the garden that he used as a studio to paint or to receive other painters.
Where to Sleep in Auvers-sur-Oise
With so many things to see and do you may think that one day is not enough to enjoy Auvers’s quiet and relaxing atmosphere and probably you are right! Auvers does not have a big choice of accommodation but there are a couple of cute hotels or pensions at a reasonable price, especially if you book in advance:
Never thought about sleeping on a boat? This péniche located on the banks of the Oise River in Auvers is very appreciated by couples. The boat has all the facilities that you may need and it features a fantastic deck-terrace where you can enjoy your breakfast or a glass of champagne at sunset.
Inspired by Van Gogh’s famous paintings this colorful hotel is a wonder. Hotel des Iris is located at just 100 m of Auberge Ravoux, perfect for exploring Auvers. Common facilities include a garden and a terrace whilst the rooms are inspired by Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
How to Travel from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise
Auvers-sur-Oise is very easy to reach by train. From April to the end of October, on weekends and holidays, there is a direct train leaving from Paris Gare du Nord to Auvers-sur-Oise and the train journey takes only 35 minutes.
Out of these dates or on weekdays, take train Transilien H from Gare du Nord to Pontoise train station and then take another Transilien H from Pontoise to Auvers-sur-Oise for a train journey of 45 minutes in total.
Train tickets cost around 6€ (one way). If you have the Navigo card 5 zones you don’t need to pay anything else.
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