After his arrival at Auvers-sur-Oise, Van Gogh was in high form, full of energy and confident both of his project and the unfailing support of his brother.
Doctor Gachet, the Pissarros’ family doctor, had agreed to keep an eye on Vincent. The medical man, a worldly eccentric who was an emblematic figure in Impressionist circles, welcomed Vincent and his radiant canvases with much kindness and warmth.
In Auvers, Vincent’s work was tremendously daring and attested to his conviction and inexhaustible energy. He created more than 80 works in less than 70 days.
His technique was entirely assured and his desire to overthrow the remaining conventions of pictorial art manifest.
In his many biographies, Van Gogh is often depicted as a wild and uncontrollable man with a fiery temper and a predilection for drink.
His paintings, letters and the testimonies of those who knew him contradict this image. Adeline Ravoux, the daughter of the innkeeper from whom Van Gogh rented a furnished room for 1 Franc per day, recalled a courteous, kind and unfussy man. Arthur Ravoux, her father, did not hesitate to let his daughter sit for Vincent, clearly an indication of trust.
Now able to throw himself wholeheartedly into his work and no longer troubled by doubts about its merit, Vincent was pushing his work further and further. His experiments were profuse and disconcerting. In Auvers, he found his preferred choice of canvas, the 50 by 100cm ‘double square’ and painted the work he called his ‘most deliberate painting’, Daubigny’s Garden. His last works blur the boundaries between figurative and abstract art and contain the seed of the artistic explosion of the early twentieth century.
He wrote to his mother and sister and resumed his correspondence with Gauguin. But he was beset by a dilemma that had haunted him all his life: he was unhappy in the company of others, but no happier on his own. This ambivalence is expressed in his remarkable paintings of the fields of Auvers.
A few days before his death, he ordered more paint and canvases from Theo. There was nothing to indicate that he wished to end his life. One Sunday, he left the Auberge Ravoux and returned several hours later with a bullet lodged in his body. He said to whoever would listen that he had tried to kill himself. He died two days later.
No one knows exactly what happened on 27 July 1890 in Auvers. What is certain, however, is that the radiance of his paintings cannot be dulled by the circumstances of his death.
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