Thursday we drove to Avers sur Oise, the final resting place of Vincent Van Gogh. He spent his final months here, living in a small room at the inn and painting in the area. These are among his most famous paintings. The village is largely dedicated to his memory and work, but there are other artistic sights as well. Daubigny and his son painted here before Van Gogh. There is a small, but very nice, Mussee de Daubigny above the Tourist Information Center.
We walked the lanes Van Gogh walked in search of scenes that inspired him. Starting at the inn, we strolled up a small lane, climbed a hill through narrow streets to Daubigny’s atelier. Then we crossed the hill on the top of the town to Notre Dame d’Avers sur Oise. This church has been painted by many, but Van Gogh’s paintings of it are terrific examples of the height of his talent. Leaving the church, we climbed a hill toward the cemetery about a half mile away. It sits in the middle of grain fields overlooking the valley of the Oise, much as it did in Van Gogh’s day.
This active cemetery is covered with flowers. As we have seen elsewhere the French honor their families with living and cut flowers that are tended by family members. Vincent Van Gogh has a simple monument against the back wall of the cemetery. His younger brother, Theo, died one year later and is buried next to him. Theo was Vincent’s dealer, best friend, muse, and patron. That he died of syphyllus less than a year after Vincent committed suicide makes us wonder if knowledge of his brother’s weakening state deepened Van Gogh’s depression that led to suicide. We will never know. Although Theo lived in Paris, they are now buried together. Did Theo request this? That, also, we do not know.
Returning on our walk along the lanes we found a monument honoring Daubigny. It stands on the roundabout just below the church. Then we walked the lanes back to the Daubigny Museum. There we found a special exhibit of the Zadine, the sculptor who created the Van Gogh statue in town. He also has made it his life’s work to create other interpretations of Van Gogh and the two brothers. His bronzes of Vincent and Theo together show two men intertwined and grasping each other. They are very moving. The museum also houses an exquisite collection of oils, watercolors, drawings, and etchings from the 19th century. Most of them are of Daubigny and his son, Carl, but there are other artists represented as well. This little museum is something artists should visit.
Our day ended with a leisurely drive via our British GPS guide down the Oise to the Seine. We followed a road along the top of the bluffs, then circle back along a road on the riverside. From the top the views were dramatic as the river twists its way through forests, fields, and villages. On the lower road one finds more intimate views. One of the more interesting discoveries there were the famous cave homes. These troglodyte houses appear in many places in France, wherever the rock is soft enough to easily excavate, but hard enough to endure. Most of the caves we saw are now businesses rather than houses. They are simply a wooden door mounted on the side of a cliff. Behind the doors there are rooms quarried into the rock, lit by electricity. We even found a Troglodyte Church! Although it isn’t a cave itself it is dedicated to these modern cave dwellers.
It was a grand day.