Sunday, 27 June 2010

In Search of Vincent

Recently Jules and I completed a fascinating journey that had lasted several months, as we followed in the footsteps of the troubled and somewhat misunderstood artist Vincent Van Gogh. It began at his studio in Montmartre, but eventually saw us making our way to the countryside of Provence to stand in the very locations where many of his most famous works were painted. Journeying to the town of Arles, we saw the spot were he once shared a house with Gauguin, which also coincided with the famous ear cutting incident. We visited the hospital where he convalesced, with its beautiful Spanish style courtyard and drank coffee at the café featured in the painting ‘Café Terrace at Night’, with both remaining quite the same as in his time. We ventured to the nearby town of St. Remy where Van Gogh spent a year in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole-Asylum. We sat in the walled garden where he had spent many an hour and I pulled out my watercolour box to render a quick homage to the moment. The tranquillity, the iris in bloom and the gentle spring light was almost spiritual! The trail soon continued back to the township of St.Remy, which was dotted with sign posts indicating the location of many of his most famous works. The final stage of the journey was completed quite recently with a short train trip from Paris to the town of Auvers sur Oise where Van Gogh spent his final days under the care of Dr. Gachet. He painted many celebrated works in this lovely town and of course his final work, ‘Wheatfield with Crows', with its three paths going in different directions can still be seen in the fields at the edge of the town. Nearby the graves of Van Gogh and his brother Theo can be found, quite humble but carefully maintained. Our journey is now complete and we both feel that we have learned so much more about the artist than just reading a book or viewing his works in a gallery. We saw these places through his eyes and like him became enthused. The beauty of the landscape and simplicity of a way of life that still remains inspirational.

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