The Church at Auvers

The Church at Auvers

"With that I have a larger painting of the village church – an effect in which the building appears purplish against a sky of a deep and simple blue of pure cobalt, the stained-glass windows look like ultramarine blue patches, the roof is violet and in part orange. In the foreground a little flowery greenery and some sunny pink sand. It’s again almost the same thing as the studies I did in Nuenen of the old tower and the cemetery. Only now the colour is probably more expressive, more sumptuous." Vincent to his sister, Willemien van Gogh, June 5, 1890
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The Church at Auvers, on Rue Eglise in Auvers sur Oise is a piece composed with a large cobalt and violet sky and a lone female figure on one of two diverging paths with the church itself seen from a distance and on level — whereas the footpaths are at a seemingly lower elevation.  The vertical brushstrokes and perspective suggest an incline before us and the curved and diagonal strokes along with the wavy lines of the church itself suggest motion and energy.  Vincent use vibrant oranges complementing deep blues as well as bright yellows with varying shades of green to accomplish a harmony of colors in his palette and power in the piece.  The perspective is similar to previous works of Vincent’s when he was in his native Nuenen in the Netherlands, painting the church where his father was a pastor in his more subdued northern palette of browns.

This is the only painting representing in full the church in Auvers that may sometimes be distinguished in the background of views of the whole village. This church, built in the 13th century in the early Gothic style, flanked by two Romanesque chapels, became under the painter’s brush a flamboyant monument on the verge of dislocating itself from the ground and from the two paths that seem to be clasping it like torrents of lava or mud. If one compares this painting with Claude Monet’s paintings of the cathedral in Rouen, painted shortly afterwards, one can measure how different Van Gogh’s approach was from that of the impressionists. Unlike Monet, he did not try to render the impression of the play of light on the monument. Even though the church remains recognisable, the painting does not so much offer the spectator a faithful image of reality than a form of “expression” of a church. The artistic means used by Van Gogh anticipate the work of the fauvists and expressionist painters.  (Musee d’Orsay commentary on the painting, where it hangs today)

 

 

“My dear sister,
I ought to have replied to your two letters long since, which I received while still in St-Rémy, but the journey, work and a host of new emotions up to today made me put it off from one day to the next. It interested me very much that you’ve cared for patients at the Walloon hospital, that’s certainly how one learns heaps of things, the best and most necessary that one can learn, and I myself regret that I know nothing, in any event not enough, about all that.
It was a great happiness for me to see Theo again, to meet Jo and the little one. Theo was coughing more than when I left him more than 2 years ago, but while talking and when I saw him at close hand, however, I considered him certainly rather changed for the better, all things considered, and Jo is full of both good sense and good will. The little one is not sickly, but not strong either. It’s a good system that if one lives in a large town the woman gives birth in the country and spends the first months there with the little one. But there you are, for the first time especially, as the birth is frightening, they certainly couldn’t have done better or otherwise than they did. I hope that they’ll come here to Auvers for a few days soon.
For me the journey and the rest up to now have gone well, and coming back to the north distracts me a lot. Then I’ve found in Dr Gachet a ready-made friend and something like a new brother would be – so much do we resemble each other physically, and morally too. He’s very nervous and very bizarre himself, and has rendered much friendship and many services to the artists of the new school, as much as was in his power. I did his portrait the other day and am also going to paint that of his daughter, who is 19. He lost his wife a few years ago, which has greatly contributed to breaking him. We were friends, so to speak, immediately, and I’ll go and spend one or two days a week at his house working in his garden, of which I’ve already painted two studies, one with plants from the south, aloes, cypresses, marigolds, the other with white roses, vines and a figure. Then a bouquet of buttercups. With that I have a larger painting of the village church – an effect in which the building appears purplish against a sky of a deep and simple blue of pure cobalt, the stained-glass windows look like ultramarine blue patches, the roof is violet and in part orange. In the foreground a little flowery greenery and some sunny pink sand. It’s again almost the same thing as the studies I did in Nuenen of the old tower and the cemetery. Only now the colour is probably more expressive, more sumptuous. But in the last few days at St-Rémy I worked like a man in a frenzy, especially on bouquets of flowers. Roses and violet Irises.”

To Willemien van Gogh. Auvers-sur-Oise, Thursday, 5 June 1890

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 94 x 74 Size 30 Figure
Auvers-sur-Oise, France: June 4, 1890
Musée d’Orsay
Paris, France, Europe
F: 789, JH: 2006

Where Vincent Was:
Auvers Sur Oise

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