May 19, 2013 | 08:36 PM (BD Time)
19 May, 2013 Sunday
Memoirs of Vincent Van Gogh’s stay in Auvers-sur-Oise
Vincent Van Gogh arrived at our place at the end May 1890; I cannot be more specific on the date from memory. It is claimed that before this he stayed briefly at the hotel Saint Aubin when he arrived in Auvers, but I never heard him speak of it. You have been able to see the small bedroom that he lived in with us, on the second floor, the room whose door faces the staircase. Having gone to Auvers on May 7 last, I rectified errors that the current manager made on this subject, with respect to the bedroom on the first floor that he had never occupied. The room in the lobby where he painted (the ‘artists room’ as we had called it) still exists, although reduced by a corridor. I have given an account of my trip to Auvers, which was published in Les Nouvelles Litteraires of August 12, 1954.
Of his dress, I remember only a blue drill jacket, shorter than an ordinary jacket, which he wore constantly. He did not wear either collar or tie. For headgear, he wore a felt hat with large flaps, and when the sun shone a straw hat like those worn by gardeners or fishermen. Overall his appearance was neglected.
He was a man of good build, one shoulder slightly leaning on the side of his wounded ear, a very penetrating glance, gentle and calm, but not a very communicative character. When one spoke to him, he always replied with an agreeable smile. He spoke French very correctly, hunting a bit for his words. He never drank alcohol. I insist on this point. The day of his suicide, he was not in the least intoxicated, as some claim. When I later learnt that he had been interned in an asylum for lunatics in the Midi, I was very surprised, as he always appeared calm and gentle in Auvers. He was well respected at our place. We called him familiarly ‘Monsieur Vincent’. He never mixed with the clients of the cafe.
He took his meals with our two other boarders, who were Tommy Hirschig (who we called familiarly Tom) and Martinez de Valdivielse. Tommy Hirschig was a Dutch painter, to me he seemed twenty-three or twenty - four years old; he arrived at ours a bit after Van Gogh. He knew very little French and long continued to speak it badly, with vocabulary mistakes that provoked foolish laughter. He was a bright lad, not much of a worker, more preoccupied with beautiful girls than painting.
His relationship with Vincent seemed to have been superficial. It was difficult to follow their conversation, because they spoke in Dutch. Vincent did not seem to take him very seriously. Hirschig left our house in Auvers a short while after the death of Van Gogh. I think, for my part, that it was our low rent (3,50 Francs per day) that attracted Van Gogh to us. In any case, it certainly was not Dr Gachet who bought him. We had no relationship with this physician, who I had never seen at our place before the death of Vincent.
Martinez de Valdivielse was a Spanish watercolourist exiled from his homeland for his carlist opinions. He received large subsidies from his family. Martinez had a house in Auvers and only took his meals with us. He was a great handsome man with a long grizzled brown beard, with a profile as on a medal. Very vibrant and nervous, he strode the house from one end to the other. He expressed himself very well in French and was happy to speak to Father, whom he well respected. The first time that he saw a canvas of Van Gogh, with his usual fire he cried: “What pig made that?” Vincent, standing behind his easel replied with his ordinary calm: “It is me, Monsieur.” This is how they met one another.
They hit it off quite well and had long moving conversations, especially on art and artists that they knew, one expressing himself with fire and enthusiasm, the other with calm. I do not think that Martinez really appreciated the painting of Van Gogh. Vincent does not in speak of him in his letters, at least in those that have been bought to public knowledge. In the Van Gogh correspondence, he does not name Dr Gachet among his relationships. But I believe that the legend that suggests that Vincent went to dinner there every Sunday and Monday is probably false, or at least strongly exaggerated, because I have no memory of repeated absences of M Vincent at mealtimes which he regularly took with us. In fact, I am persuaded that there were no intimate relationships between the doctor and the artist. That is a problem on which scholars will have to work.
The menu was that served during the period in restaurants: meat, vegetables, salad and dessert. I do not remember M Vincent having any food preference. He never refused a dish. He was not a difficult boarder. The question of religion was never raised in our house. We never saw Vincent Van Gogh either in church or at the priests'. I never knew any Protestants in Auvers. Vincent did not visit anybody in the village, to the best of my knowledge. He had few conversations with us. Father, who had been established in Auvers only a few months before the arrival of Vincent, was then forty - two years old. He did not hold a conversation on art and did not discuss with him any material questions.
On the other hand, Vincent had attached himself to my little sister Germaine (today Guilloux, who lives with me). She was then a baby; two years old. Every evening, following the meal, he took her on his knees, and drew The Sandman for her on a slate: a horse harnessed to a cart, in which the sandman stood upright, throwing sand by the handful. Following this the little girl kissed everyone and went to bed.
Vincent had not spoken to me before he did my portrait, other than for some polite words. One day, he asked me: “Would it please you if I did your portrait? He appeared to really want to. I accepted and he asked my parents’ permission. I was then thirteen years, but to some I appeared sixteen. He did my portrait in an afternoon, in one sitting. Durin
Art and Culture
Focus on Chittagong
Fashion & Beauty
Food and Drink
Law and Justice
New Nation Supplement
Editor: Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Adviser Editor: A.M. Mufazzal, Printed and Published by Mainul Hosein from the New Nation Printing Press, 1.R.K Mission Road, Dhaka-1203 Phones: New Nation PABX: 7122654, 7114514, 7122655, Fax: 880-2-7122650, 9512775 email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org for advertisement, email@example.com