November 18, 2010

It Was the Best of Days, It Was the Worst of Days, It Was My Last of Days - Part 2

It was so cold when I got off the bus. It hadn't warmed up at all. I had 45 minutes to spare before my lunch reservation at the Auberge Ravoux.

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.


Diane said...

The headstones look preternaturally clean.

I like the comparison of the photo and real church, it gives the painting some context.

How special it must have been to be in the wheatfield.

Giulia said...

I was just going to say what Diane did...about both the headstones & the headstones.

The wheatfield painting or otherwise always makes me upset. Long story but once when it was on view here at a large exhibition, the last picture before leaving the hall, there were kids (old enough to know better) roughhousing & so on. It made me furious...very disrespectful. I always have seen it as VVG's final note. And yes, I busted their rears to the guards.

LadyCat said...

This is amazing to see! Thank you for sharing this with us. Vam Gogh is my absolute favorite and it is very special to be able to see your photos : )

Giulia said...

I think I typed 'mairie' when I meant the church...oof. I actually thought of it late last night.

Hels said...

I don't often change my mind about artists.. the people I disliked 20 years ago I am still not fond of; the artists I was passionate about 20 years ago are still, largely, my favourites.

Except for van Gogh. He has grown and grown on me over the decades. I have moved from seeing him as a social inept, probably psychiatrically disturbed Tragic a great artist who didn't live long enough to see his reputation redeemed.

Your post is part of that process of change (in me, not in Vincent). Thanks

amourissima said...

this is just fantastic....