I had a lot of things going the last week in Paris and didn’t get up the last sketches. I do still want to post these paintings from Auvers, though. I went back a second time because I wanted to paint more (and bigger) in the fields and because one special tree called me back, which will surprise no one who’s known me for very long. I took my bigger sketch book the second time (9x12”) and enjoyed being in the country a bit and did several watercolors in that same area where Van Gogh painted the crows over the wheat field.
This tree, arching over a narrow path, is what really drew me back. I did several different versions, and I never got it quite right, but I sure enjoyed trying.
After I’d painted a bit, I walked down to the other end of town to see Dr. Gachet’s house. Mavis and I hadn’t had the time and energy the week before. I’m so glad I did. He was an amateur artist as well as a doctor, and Van Gogh moved to Auvers to be under his care. Dr. Gachet was a friend of a number of artists, and he had two printing presses, one of which (the one Van Gogh actually used) is still in the house, and I was thrilled to see it. I had a lovely conversation with the docent, who is also a printmaker, as it turns out. We talked art about 25 minutes, all in French (she was patient with my mistakes, but I was proud of myself to have such an extended conversation, even with grammatical missteps). Once we got going, she was kind enough to remove the rope blocking the stairway and take me up to the attic art studio. Cézanne had painted there and had made Dr. Gachet move the skylight from the southern side of the house to the northern one, so there would be cool, steady light for painting. It’s a lovely space, and it was special to be there. I always feel humbled standing in the spaces where great artists have painted, and I always enjoy seeing other people’s work spaces.
Agata took my photo up there, and here is also the printing press. Just a gorgeous piece as well as art making magic.
The garden at Dr. Gachet’s is a lovely place. Small but quiet and with view out across tiled rooftops. Van Gogh had painted Gachet’s daughter there, and I found a bench in the shade to sit and enjoy the view, and I couldn’t resist painting as well.
It was a great day. I was exhausted when it was over, from travel plus five watercolors, but I was so delighted that I got back to spend more time there. It’s only an hour and a half from Gare du Nord, so it’s an easy day trip from Paris for anyone who has the extra time.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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