To celebrate its 50th anniversary the Van Gogh Museum presents a major survey of Vincent van Gogh’s final months, which he spent in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village on the outskirts of Paris. The exhibition is organized in close collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay, where it will be on view from 3 October until 4 February 2024.
Vincent van Gogh was full of optimism when he arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise on 20 May 1890, having spent much of the previous year in a mental hospital in Saint-Rémy, some 30 kilometres from Arles, where he had moved in February 1888. But less than two months later his mood had darkened once again. He died on 29 July 1890 at the age of 37.
During the intervening weeks, Vincent van Gogh created an impressive total of 74 paintings, which translates to an average of more than one per day. This prolific output speaks to his intense work ethic and the creative inspiration he derived from his time in Auvers-sur-Oise.
The curators have done an amazing job by bringing together nearly 50 paintings and some 30 drawings and sketches from this pivotal period, including a number of loans from private collections that are rarely displayed publicly, making this a one-of-a-kind opportunity. In preparation for the exhibition the curators also tracked down the locations where Van Gogh painted the landscapes and village scenes depicted in the paintings. There’s even a map of Auvers and some old photographs from around the time when Van Gogh lived in Auvers.
It was a joy to see all of these works, many of which I only knew from reproductions. I particularly loved Blossoming Chestnut Branches, Stairway at Auvers-sur-Oise, Daubigny’s Garden, Fields near Auvers-sur-Oise, the enigmatic Undergrowth with Two Figures and the unfinished Farms near Auvers-sur-Oise, and of course the Portrait of Doctor Paul Gachet and the Portrait of a Young Woman.
It probably comes as no surprise that these are among my favourite paintings. Van Gogh's use of frame-filling scenes with low or no horizons has always resonated with me. In fact, his style may have influenced my own approach to photography, where I often focus on capturing scenes with minimal or no horizon.
Van Gogh in Auvers is at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam until 3 September and at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from 3 October until 4 February 2024.