Prepared with a couple of maps in hand, (thank you Google Maps), I headed off to find the church that Vincent painted and the graves of he and brother Theo. I found the church without problem. Auvers is dotted with panels denoting what views Van Gogh had painted. I think he painted 70 pictures in the 70 days he was there. I was surprised to find the "Church at Auvers" was not as squat as Vincent had painted it.
Then off to the cemetery. Despite the interpretive panels, Auvers-sur-Oise is not very well marked. I found a fingerpost with the word "Cimetière." and followed it. Minutes later I found myself on a deeply rutted farmer's road climbing a hill of dirt and deeply wishing I'd remembered my coat or at least my gloves. When I crested the hill, it all came into place. I was walking in the exact place that Vincent Van Gogh had walked a 120 years earlier. This was the place where Vincent had painted one of his very last paintings, Wheatfield with Crows. And there were crows. And it was bleak. The wheat had long been harvested, and a green stubble remained. But here were the three converging roads denoted in green in Vincent's painting. I stopped, tried to be less word-weary and was mindful of where I was.
The cemetery, like a large pen, was a few hundred feet to my right. How ironic that the cemetery where Vincent lay was visible from where Vincent had painted what some say was his "suicide note to the world".
|With my back to the cemetery wall, some other bleak vantages|
The people of Auvers must be tired of rubber-neckers like me because again there was a dearth of signage and if it hadn't been for the man with the video camera it would have taken me a long time to walk the perimeter of the graveyard looking for the Van Gogh brother's graves.
I found the simple gravestones. Recently cleaned, they must have been some of the oldest stones in the cemetery. I paid my respects, thinking what lay beneath. The art, the legend, the books, the letters between the two brothers, the films, the mystery - this is what it all comes down to right here. I took a video clip for my husband so I could share the experience with him and I pocketed a few leaves of ivy from the grave to take to him back home.
Next: My Lunch at the Auberge Ravoux, In the Attic Where Vincent Died and Almost Stranded.