Published on June 9th, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
Van Gogh in Auvers
You have to wonder what Vincent Van Gogh would think if he could look down from where he surely rests in a special section of heaven reserved for artistic virtuosity, to see the extraordinary interest in his work at the Van Gogh and the Seasons exhibition running at the National Gallery of Victoria until July 9.
Van Gogh and the Seasons is one of the fastest selling shows in the gallery’s history – and there have been many blockbusters before this one.
And what would the great artist think of the value of his works today when in his short but productive and tumultuous life he sold not a painting?
Now, if a Van Gogh painting did come up for sale from a private collection it would command millions, many, many millions.
Van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his small rented room at a modest inn in the little French town of Auvers – a town I visited just yesterday on a shore excursion from a cruise on the luxury barge hotel, Panache.
He spent the last 70 days of his life here, painted prolifically, died tragically.
To be so immersed in the Van Gogh experience in this small unspoilt French town, that probably has not changed much in the century or so since Van Gogh arrived there, was one of the most significant and moving experiences in all my travels.
To walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps, stand before some of the landmarks he painted, to see them through my ordinary eyes and then to look at them in paintings depicted on panels next to the buildings through the eyes of his genius, was goose-bumpy stuff.
Auvers-sur-Oise, to give it its full name, attracted other artists at the time and became a small artists’ colony, but it is Van Gogh who left such a meaningful imprint and made the town now a drawcard for art lovers all over the world.
Standing in front of the Mairie (town hall) to look at the pleasant but ordinary building through my untrained and insignificant eyes, and then to look at a copy of Van Gogh’s painting of the building so gloriously transformed by his brilliance, was thrilling.
Then to wander to the town church he painted, first to look at the old and dignified church and then to a copy of Van Gogh’s painting of it on a panel in the grounds, changed my wonder of Van Gogh to an intimate experience.
Standing in the tiny room he lived in for those 70 days, a claustrophic space up some dark wooden and creaky steps of the inn was to feel his torment through the mental illness he suffered throughout his life.
The room is now bare and on one wall there are a few small holes where he hung some of his paintings – and there, printed and sitting behind a glass panel, a heart-breaking quote from a letter he sent to his brother Theo: “Some day or other I believe I will find a way to have my own exhibition in a café.”