VAN GOGH : the traveller

It still seems to me that I am a traveller who is going somewhere and to a destination. Letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo – Arles, 6 August 1888

Paysage sous la pluie à Auvers (détail). Auvers, 1890, Musée Pouchkine, Moscou.

Paysage sous la pluie à Auvers (détail). Auvers, 1890, Musée Pouchkine, Moscou.

In his 37 years, Vincent van Gogh had 38 different addresses in four countries. He lived in Groot-Zundert, The Hague, Amsterdam, Nuenen, Brussels, Antwerp, London, Ramsgate, Paris, Arles, Saint-Rémy de Provence and Auvers-sur-Oise. Each of these places bears the traces of his passage.

Van Gogh did not possess much: his painting equipment, a few books and at some of the places he lived, a few pieces of furniture. He dreamt of stability, but was incapable of staying in one place for long.

During the first 33 years of his life, especially during his ‘Dutch’ period, Van Gogh lived in surroundings that were relatively familial. He lodged with the Reverend Slade-Jones and his wife in Isleworth, with the baker Denis in Petit-Wasmes, he lived with his parents in Nuenen and with his companion Sien Hoornik and her children in the Hague.

From 1886, when he lived in France, Van Gogh was a regular at cafés, cabarets, restaurants, boarding houses and inns. Cultivating both solitude and company, it was here that he found conversation and inspiration. In Paris he was often to be seen at Le Tambourin, in Arles at the Pension Carreland l’Alcazar. In Auvers-sur-Oise, he stayed at the Auberge Ravoux. These gathering places provided him with human contact and warmth without pinning him down, hereby fulfilling his needs entirely. Van Gogh’s lodgings were characterized by their simplicity, modesty, familial atmosphere and vibrant café life.

Van Gogh sur la route de Tarascon. Détruit durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

Van Gogh sur la route de Tarascon. Détruit durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

VAN GOGH IN FRANCE In the 1880s, Theo van Gogh, who was his brother’s artistic patron and closest confidant, was becoming a very successful art dealer in Paris. The French city was the cultural capital of the Western world and every aspiring painter was drawn to it.

In February 1886, Vincent went to live with Theo in Montmartre and made many friends in the circles of the avant-garde artists. He found these interactions and exchanges highly stimulating and his talent blossomed. He then left Paris to put his theories and techniques to the test in the South of France. Initially in Arles in 1888, then in Saint Rémy de Provence in 1889, he ceaselessly worked at exploring his artistic boundaries. Vincent returned to the north in 1890 and it was here in Auvers-sur-Oise that his life ended and his art reached its peak.

A plate containing this information was erected in Montmartre on april 18th 2015.
Download a facsimile of the plate (pdf).