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North of Paris and Normandy
By Museyon Inc.
Museyon, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Museyon
All rights reserved.
North of Paris and Normandy
Along the Seine
Le Havre & Sainte-Adresse
Honfleur & Trouville
Fécamp, Dieppe, Éragny
Throughout the 19th century, Parisians began looking outside the city for respite from their increasingly modern city. Beaches and the banks of the Seine became popular places for weekend getaways, aided by the arrival of rail service from Paris. The Impressionists, too, looked beyond the city's borders for fresh air and inspiration. These artists were united in their appreciation of landscape and depictions of modern life, as well as a commitment to outdoor, plein air painting. Outside of the Paris, these artists reveled in nature, embracing the region's shifting light and bountiful flora.
This tour heads north from Paris, through the suburbs where Monet and Renoir once worked, to Normandy, a scenic seaside retreat captured in many Impressionist masterpieces.
"Auvers is really beautiful — among other things many old thatched roofs, which are becoming rare."
— Vincent van Gogh
Set in the Oise Valley, just 30 km (16.9 mi) north of Paris, the town of Auvers-sur-Oise brims with quaint charm. One hundred and fifty years after the first Impressionist artists arrived here to paint its picturesque landscape, Auvers still retains its natural beauty, as well as many of its original 19th-century buildings. The town remains virtually unchanged from the days of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, allowing visitors to see nearly the same exact scenes the artists painted.
Upon arriving in Auvers-sur-Oise on May 20, 1880, Van Gogh wrote to his brother and sister-in-law Jo his first impressions of the town:
"I'd hope, then, that in doing a few canvases of that really seriously, there would be a chance of recouping some of the costs of my stay — for really it's gravely beautiful, it's the heart of the countryside, distinctive and picturesque."
This arrival marked the beginning of Van Gogh's last 70 days; he shot himself on July 27. While staying in Auvers, Van Gogh was inspired to paint over 70 works including The Church at Auvers,Daubigny's Garden and, most famously, Wheatfield with Crows. Van Gogh came to Auvers to be treated by Dr. Paul Gachet, who was a collector and close friend of many Impressionists. Gachet lived here with his family three days a week and practiced medicine in Paris the rest of the time. While in Auvers, Cézanne also took full advantage of Dr. Gachet's hospitality.
In 1872, Cézanne joined Camille Pissarro in Pontoise with Marie-Hortense Fiquet and their newborn son.
There is direct service to Auverssur-Oise from Paris, Gare du Nord on the Transilien suburban rail line. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
Daubingny (1818-1878) comes to Auvers where he meets Cézanne. Daumier and Corot often join him, being influenced by Daubingny's style of painting en plein air.
April 9th, 1872
Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, purchasing his now-famous maison.
1872 — 1874
Cézanne moves to Auvers for 18 months. With the influence of Pissarro and Impressionist collector Dr. Gachet, Cézanne painted his first Impressionist work here, The Hanged Man's House.
Pissarro, Cézanne and Gauguin spend the summer painting together in and around Auvers.
May 20th, 1890
Vincent van Gogh moves to Auvers where he befriends Dr. Gachet. He spends the final 70 days of his life here, dying by a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 29th, 1890.
After the Impressionists leave, many other artists live or spend time in Auvers, including Rajon, Goeneutte, Vignon, Beauverie, Maximilien Luce, Giran Max, Spraque Pearce, Boggio, Otto Freundlich and Henri Rousseau.
Early in 1873, Cézanne moved to Auvers, a few miles up from Pontoise, and worked in Dr. Gachet's house for 18 months. It is in Auvers where Cézanne painted two of his most celebrated works, A Modern Olympia (which Dr. Gachet acquired) and The Hanged Man's House. It is said that the Barbizon painter Charles-François Daubigny once watched Cézanne work here and could not restrain his enthusiasm. "I've just seen on the bank of the Oise an extraordinary piece of work," he told a friend. "It is by a young and unknown man: a certain Cézanne!"
However, Auvers did not always harbor the peace that drew artists from all over the world. The Oise valley was the location of several wars, ranging from the 9th-century Norman invasion to the Hundred Years' War of the 16th century. It was not until the 17th century that Auvers saw true peace, when the building of the Colombières manor, and then later in the 18th century, the elegant Léry chateau, were made possible.
Auvers is easily explored on foot, and the tourist office is the best starting point. Here the friendly staff provides free maps that indicate 24 sites where Impressionist artists set up their easels. These sites are indicated by plaques, on a "works of art" tour of the town.
Impressions of Auvers
Physician, patron and friend to some of the greatest Impressionist artists, Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet was born to an upper-middle-class family in Lille in 1828. As a teenager, Gachet learned to draw from artists Eugène Cuvelier and Ambroise Detrez. In his 20s, he spent evenings roaming Paris exhibition openings, with his wild hair dyed a shocking shade of yellow, buying work from up-and-comers like Manet and Courbet; the days he spent struggling through his university classes.
In 1872, Gachet traded Paris for the quieter countryside, relocating with his young wife to Auvers-sur-Oise, because of both its pastoral beauty and its popularity with artists. Here, Gachet operated his medical practice part-time while entertaining painters such as Pissarro, who introduced him to his protégé Cézanne. It was Cézanne who helped Gachet turn his attic loft into a studio. Of Gachet's life in Auvers, contemporary journalist Paul Alexis wrote, "Up hill and down dale, with an extraordinary energy, he does everything at once: his consultations in his surgery and his painting, homeopathy and allopathy, literature and fishing, not to mention teaching his children ..."
On May 20, 1890, Vincent van Gogh appeared at Gachet's door with a letter of introduction from his brother Theo. Pissarro had advised Theo to get in touch with Gachet regarding his older brother's mental health and Gachet agreed to keep watch over him. Upon his arrival, Van Gogh was struck by the doctor's appearance: "I've seen Dr. Gachet, who gave me the impression of being rather eccentric, but his doctor's experience must keep him balanced himself while combating the nervous ailment from which it seems to me he's certainly suffering at least as seriously as I am." Doctor and patient became close friends, but the friendship could not save the painter. As Van Gogh lay dying, Gachet stood at his bedside, sketching the artist in his final hours.
Gachet died in 1909 and is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. In 1949, his son donated the incredible collection his father had amassed — including nine Van Goghs, eight Cézannes, three Pissarros, a Monet and a Renoir — to France. They are now on exhibit at the Musée d'Orsay.
1 Daubigny Museum / Tourist Office
The painter Daubigny was a forerunner of the Impressionist movement and, in 1854, came to Auvers to join friends and fellow artists Corot and Daumier. A museum featuring his works along with memorabilia is on the second floor of the Colombières Manor. The first floor is the tourist office, from which 1-hour guided tours of the town leave from April through October for &8364;6.
Manoir des Colombières rue de la Sansonne
+33 (0) 1 30 36 80 20
Wed-Fri 2PM-5:30PM Sat-Sun 10:30AM-12:30PM, 2PM–5:30PM
+33 (0) 1 30 36 10 06
Apr-Oct Tue-Sun 9:30AM-12:30PM 2PM-6PM Closed: Nov-Mar Tue-Sun 9:30AM-12:30PM, 2PM-5PM
2 Auberge Ravoux
On May 20, 1890, Van Gogh arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise and moved into a small room at the Auberge Ravoux that cost him 3.50 francs per night. The inn was a favorite amongst painters and here Van Gogh found himself in the company of other Dutch, American and French artists. It is at the inn where Van Gogh died on July 29, 1890 at 1:30 a.m., with his brother Theo at his side. The inn no longer keeps overnight guests but does offer the same traditional fare that Van Gogh would have eaten while living here. His room has been kept the same as it was when the painter occupied it and is open to the public.
place de la Mairie
+33 (0) 1 30 36 60 60
3 Notre-Dame d'Auvers(The Church at Auvers)
Dating back to the 11th century, this Gothic church has a Romanesque chapel, which was once the private chapel of Queen Adélaide de Maurienne, widow of Louis VI (Louis the Fat). But what has made the church most famous is Van Gogh's painting The Church at Auvers. With a bell tower that looms over the town, the church is difficult to miss and has remained unchanged since it was imortalized by Van Gogh.
+33 (0) 1 30 36 71 79
4 Wheatfield with Crows
Wheatfield with Crows is often wrongly assumed to be Van Gogh's final painting. In fact, Van Gogh painted several wheatfield landscapes during his time in Auvers, telling his brother Theo, "They depict vast, distended wheatfields under angry skies, and I deliberately tried to express sadness and extreme loneliness in them." But these pictures also had a positive side: "I am almost certain that these canvases illustrate what I cannot express in words, that is, how healthy and reassuring I find the countryside." Van Gogh's fields are right outside Auvers and a short walk up the plateau from Notre-Dame d'Auvers.
Van Gogh's Last Works
On July 23, 1890, four days before he shot himself, Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo describing a painting he is working on depicting Daubigny's garden and a croquis (quick drawing) of thatched roof cottages. These, rather than Wheatfield with Crows, are much more likely to be his final works.
5 Cimetière d'Auvers (Cemetery)
Theo Van Gogh reported this his brother's last words were, "La tristesse durera toujours" ("The sadness will last forever"). Vincent was buried at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise. Theo, unable to come to terms with his brother's death, died six months later and was buried next to him. Both graves are at the back wall of the cemetery, covered in ivy. The artists Norbert Gneutte and Léonide Bourges are also buried here.
Van Gogh's younger brother Theo had a complicated series of ailments, ranging from a kidney infection to what was most likely syphilis. Camille Pissarro wrote to his son regarding Theo, "It appears that Theo van Gogh was ill before his madness; he had uremia. For a week he was unable to urinate ..." In January of 1891, his sickness caught up with him and Theo had a physical breakdown and suffered a stroke, which paralyzed him. A few days later, he fell into a coma and passed away.
place de l'Eglise
6 Parc Van Gogh (Van Gogh Park)
Home to a 10 ½ foot, 880-pound bronze sculpture of Van Gogh — a contemporary piece by the Russian-born sculptor Ossip Zadkine, who studied Van Gogh's self portraits and found inspiration for the piece in two works, one in which Van Gogh looked like his father and the other, his mother. Van Gogh is portrayed with deep-set eyes and a paint box and easel slung over his shoulder, staring ahead towards the field from Wheatfield with Crows.
Parc Van Gogh
rue du Gén De Gaulle
7 Dr. Gachet's House
A great friend and supporter of artists, Dr. Gachet entertained a plethora of painters at his home, from Pissarro to Sisley and Cézanne. In 1890, Van Gogh painted two portraits of the doctor, as well as his daughter, his gardens and his house, which today still looks very much the same and has been turned into a museum.
Dr. Gachet's House
78, rue du Dr. Gachet
+33 (0) 1 30 36 81 27
Apr–Oct Wed–Sun 10AM–6PM
8 Pendu House
In 1872, Cézanne moved to Auvers to follow his mentor Pissarro, who found inspiration for his Impressionist works in the countryside. In 1873, Cézanne painted his first Impressionist work here, The Hanged Man's House (La maison du Pendu), considered to be the greatest work from his Impressionist period. The painting depicts a cottage near the rue de Four at which a suicide or hanging has never been recorded to take place. The title comes from the then-owner of the house, whose surname was Penn'du (a name that closely resembles the French word pendu, meaning hanged man). The house is privately owned, but a plaque outside indicates where Cézanne placed his easel when painting la maison.
rue de Four
Not open to the public
1 Daubigny Museum/ Tourist Office
2 Auberge Ravoux
3 Notre-Dame d'Auvers
4 Wheatfield with Crows
5 Cimetière d'Auvers
6 Parc Van Gogh
7 Dr. Gachet's House
8 Pendu House
Other Suburbs of Paris
In 1868, Auguste Renoir first visited Chatou, a suburb of Paris 14.4 km (8.9 mi) from the city center. Just a 20-minute train ride from the city, Chatou and the small island there became a fashionable getaway for Parisians of all classes. Renoir visited the town until 1884, studying the play of light on water on the shores of the Seine. He also liked that Chatou was near his mother in Louveciennes and would often stay for months at a time. Along with his fellow artists, Renoir frequented the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant, hotel and boat rental business. The struggling artist became a close friend of the proprietors, who often accepted paintings in exchange for his bill. It is here that Renoir painted one of his most famous works, Luncheon of the Boating Party in 1881, which features other regulars of the restaurant including Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir's future wife Aline Charigot and the Fournaise children. The Maison Fournaise has since been transformed into the Musée Fournaise, housing paintings from a variety of artists who passed through the restaurant (most notably the Fauvist Andre Derain) as well as objects that belonged to author Guy de Maupassant. The restaurant was restored and reopened in 1990, complete with the orange and white canopy from Renoir's painting. Just a few miles away from Chatou was the popular meeting place La Grenouillère. The so-called "frog pond" took its name not from any fourlegged creatures, but from the available women who frequented it, many of whom Renoir used as models. Renoir painted many scenes here along with his close friend Monet in hopes of selling the paintings to tourists.
Located just to the northwest of Paris, this suburb is 19 km (12 mi) from the capital or a 15-minute train ride from Gare Saint-Lazare. When a rail line was built between Argenteuil and Paris in 1851, the town underwent an industrial expansion while also attracting day-trippers from Paris. During the 1870s and 1880s, Impressionist artists who came to the town to paint its gardens, streets and modern bridges. Monet lived here from 1871 to 1878, where he created many works on his floating studio, a flat-bottomed boat he purchased and converted to a workspace (he also had a makeshift, lean-to studio near his home). From the boat, Monet could capture sprawling views of the Seine and its banks, as seen in works such as Argenteuil, 1875, now at the Musée de l'Orangerie. Suburban life marked a particularly happy and domestic time for Monet, who discovered his love of gardening in the town. His wife and their young son, Jean, often served as models for works like Coquelicots (Poppy Field), 1873, which was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition, and Woman with a Parasol, 1875. Friends Renoir, Manet and Sisley would often visit the artist, turning the small village into an enclave of artistic activity. Paintings such as Manet's Argenteuil, 1874, of a couple near the port, document the fashionable leisure of the day, which included rowing and sailing. Caillebotte, an accomplished sailor as well as artist, first visited Argenteuil following Monet's departure, and frequently painted the boats, bridges and factories of the increasingly industrialized city.
Camille Pissarro lived in this suburb of Paris, 28.4 km (17.6 mi) from the city center, for 17 years. Here he painted over 100 works, including Hillside of the Hermitage, Pontoise, 1873. Pontoise has a museum and garden dedicated to its most famous resident, the Musée Pissarro, which holds a collection mainly of prints and drawings by the Impressionist. The Roman road runs through Pontoise and is still used today as part of the N14 from Paris to Rouen.
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