Immersed in Van Gogh
Delegates to EURETINA and ESCRS meetings in Paris can enjoy all things Van Gogh
The chance to view Vincent van Gogh’s paintings transformed into an ‘immersive exhibition’ has proven to be an outstanding attraction in Paris. Running at the Atelier des Lumières until 22 December 2019, La Nuit Etoilée is a 35-minute light and sound show, an intimate exploration of Van Gogh’s paintings and the environments in which they were created. www.sortiraparis.com
This immersive concept has been hailed as ‘thrilling’ and a ‘must see’, but you can treat yourself to an immersive experience of a different kind in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, only 35 kilometres from Paris. Here, signs posted along the country roads indicate the vantage points from which Van Gogh painted 12 of his famous works. Stand in the room at Auberge Ravoux (closed Monday and Tuesday) in which the painter lived for 70 days – and in which he died. A short walk away, see the field that was the subject of the painter’s last work. Next to it is the graveyard where ivy-clad headstones mark the final resting places of Van Gogh and his ever-supportive brother Theo.
(Read Van Gogh’s correspondence with his brother, Gauguin and others here in Dutch with English translation.)
At the Auvers Tourist Bureau watch a moving video of the artist’s time in the town and pick up maps tracing Van Gogh’s footsteps. Visit the house of his physician, Dr Paul Gachet, and perhaps the 17th-Century Chateau d’Auvers; it was in its grounds that the destitute, 37-year-old Vincent fired the fatal bullet into his abdomen. He would die two days later in Chambre 5 of the Auberge Ravoux, attended by his brother and Dr Gachet.
Book a meal at the Auberge, now a restaurant called ‘La Maison de Van Gogh’. The room, in which Van Gogh had a table at the back, retains the atmosphere of a simple inn but the food is decidedly more sophisticated. There’s a small book and gift shop. www.maisondevangogh.fr
Auvers is a 35-minute drive from Palais des Congrès or an hour from Paris Expo; you can do it in a day but better still, stay overnight in the eight-room Hotel des Iris across from the Maison de Van Gogh. email@example.com. Or choose a b&b from the list on the tourist office website: www.tourisme-auverssuroise.fr. Then, early next morning, see the village almost on your own… just you looking through the eyes of Van Gogh, walking where he walked, seeing what he saw. As an immersive experience, it’s hard to beat.
3 to sample
The Church at Auvers
‘Lust for Life’
Published in 1935, this book was probably the source of much of what the average person ‘knows’ about Van Gogh. A debut novel by Irving Stone, it was made into a film the following year with Kirk Douglas as Vincent. Reading like a biography, it is, admittedly, fictionalised, but it does follow the available facts and is a good introduction to the stories behind Van Gogh’s masterpieces. To promote the film, MGM produced a short companion film, Van Gogh: Darkness Into Light, visiting the locations used for the filming of Lust for Life. An elderly woman from Auvers-sur-Oise, interviewed in the film, claims to have met Van Gogh when she was a girl and remarks that Kirk Douglas closely resembles the painter. The film is shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.
Van Gogh’s Last Days in Auvers-sur-Oise
In the final two months of life, Vincent van Gogh painted 10% of his work – 80 paintings and 64 drawings. Of this output, he is said to have sold only one painting, Red Vineyard at Arles; it earned him 400 francs – at the time, enough to support a family for over a year. That was a few months before his death in 1890. In 1990, his portrait of Dr Gachet, who attended him in Auvers, sold for over $82 million. Now recognised as one of the most important painters in the world, Van Gogh’s work is prized by 32 museums. A 52-minute English-language documentary produced by the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, tells the story of the physical and moral exhaustion of his last months, which may have contributed to his death at the age of 37. The DVD costs €14.50 and is available online from the museum at www.boutiquesdemusees.fr
Irving Kauman Arenberg MD, basing his book on a review of the available evidence, suggests that Van Gogh did not die by suicide but was murdered – and that the murder was the subject of a gigantic coverup. His book, Killing Vincent: The Man, the Myth and the Murder, presents the evidence he has unearthed using 21st-Century forensic procedures. Dr Arenberg, a retired ear surgeon, is a Van Gogh historian, whose featured “Special Communication” article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1990 questioned the diagnosis of epilepsy in explaining the artist’s seizures, suggesting they resulted from Meniere’s disease. Paperback and Kindle versions are available through Amazon.