What a beautiful day in Auvers sur Oise! The day started out foggy and slightly chilly, but it was very beautiful to see the sun as it peeked out through the clouds. We took the bus to Auvers sur Oise where we visited the Château d'Auvers that has been turned into a museum called "Voyage au Temps des Impressionistes" where you are transported back to the time of the impressionists. We learned about the impressionist movement and how it began. Paris was going through many changes at the time as the smaller streets that were filled with household waste among other unpleasant things began to be torn down for Haussmann's grand plan to modernize Paris. We also learned about the politics of the time with the Paris Commune. This was great because we were able to remember some of the things we had learned Saturday during the "rallye" on the Commune. We saw some wonderful dresses from this period and learned about the importance of fashion. The impressionists showed the detail in a dress by dappling their subjects with light and using darker colors to represent where there would be shadows.
We learned about "Café-Concert" that became popular at the time, and we even got to sit in a mock café-concert to watch a show on the screen. This helped us get an idea of what these shows would have been like. Next we headed to the train station in the museum where we waited in the "Salle d'attente" for the train. At the time, travel by train was becoming more common, and the impressionists would travel from the city to the countryside and the seaside in order to be able to paint the country. We got to go into the mock train, and with many impressionist paintings passing by on a special screen, it simulated what a train ride would have been like in the mid 1800's.
The next room showed us several famous works projected on different screens, and each screen showed a different perspective of the painting with some magnifying a certain part to show the detail of the colors and the brush strokes. The last room brought us to the seaside, and we learned about how the seaside became very "à la mode" especially in Brittany, and the beach served as a sort of studio for the artists as they painted the subjects all around them. The museum was very well set up, and each time we entered a room, the commentary would begin to explain exactly what was being presented.
The children were thrilled to visit the excellent gift shop when our visit was finished. They were able to buy souvenirs for themselves or as presents, and everyone was content after. Each child also picked out a postcard, and we will learn how to write a postcard tomorrow.
Content with our visit and our purchases, we walked to the courtyard of the Office of Tourism to have our picnic. At this point, the sun had come out fully, and it was quite warm. We were met in the courtyard by our guide after a relaxing lunch.
Our afternoon was a visit of Auvers sur Oise with a specific focus on Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh came to Auvers sur Oise at the end of his life, and he spent 70 days there. During those 70 days, he painted 72 paintings, more than one a day! Our guide showed us some of Van Gogh's art and explained that through his art, one could easily see how he was feeling when he was painting. There were several paintings that had bright, cheerful colors, and they indicated his contentment. Others with dark, somber colors showed his depression. We saw the "Auberge Ravoux" where Van Gogh lived during his time in Auvers sur Oise. He rented his room at a daily rate of 3.50 francs. Because he spent all of his time painting, he had no time to work, so he had no money. His younger brother Théo, with whom he was very close, would give him 150 francs a month to live. However when Théo and his wife had a son, named Vincent after his uncle, they decided to keep the money to help raise their son and no longer support Van Gogh. He was devastated and felt abandoned by his brother. The painting that he did at that time was full of somber colors.
We visited the church in Auvers sur Oise that was a subject of Van Gogh's paintings. We saw one that represents that back of the church with a woman walking towards it. He painted this after his father's death. The church shown from the back has no entry, and it represents his relationship with his father, a priest. They never got along and had trouble understanding each other. The woman in the painting represents his mother. Our guide told us the famous story of why Van Gogh cut off his ear lobe. It happened after a falling out with Gaugin while they were living and working together in Arles. We then walked up the hill to the fields. There was a panel with a painting of this wheat field where we were. The wheat was shown as golden and bright, while the sky was dark as if a storm was coming. There were also tons of crows, a symbol of death, in the painting. Our guide told us that this indicated that Van Gogh didn't know whether to choose life or death.
We went to the cemetery after to see the gravestones of Vincent and Théo, who are buried right next to each other. There is a bush that connects the two graves, so that they will be as close in death as they were in life. While at the cemetery we learned how Van Gogh died. He asked the owner of the Inn Ravoux where he lived to borrow his pistol in order to kill the crows that were flying above. He took the pistol and shot himself in the chest, but he did not die right away. He was able to walk back to his room at the inn, and the owner found him in his bed. Naturally, he quickly went to Paris to get Théo who came to see his brother. They were able to spend almost three days talking and enjoying each other's company before Vincent died. Van Gogh was only 37. Six months later, Théo passed away as well. We ended our visit with a quick trip inside the church in Auvers sur Oise. It had beautiful stained glass windows and sculptures.
We came back to Blérancourt by bus and were happy to return home to eat and rest. Tomorrow we stay in Blérancourt.