In Vincent van Gogh’s footsteps in Auvers-sur-Oise – at Dr Gachet’s house
We visited Dr Gachet’s house in September 2007. This blog was re-written in September 2023.
Dr Paul Gachet lived in Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of Paris, and combined his private medical practice with a love of art and mixing with artists of his day.
In 1890, when Vincent van Gogh moved to Auvers, Gachet was a widower with two teenage children: Marguerite and Paul. Vincent moved to Auvers specifically because of its artistic history and because he could be kept an eye on by Gachet (even though he was away at his practice in Paris for much of the week: work that one out!)
Gachet was probably a bit of a quack. He was interested in alternative medicines and mental health but did little to help Vincent who needed time, reassurance, a proper diagnosis and drugs which had yet to be developed, rather than useless homeopathic witchcraft. Vincent was possibly beyond help by this stage anyway, but his comments about Gachet are telling. He says he thought that “Gachet is sicker then me.”
For me, the name Gachet is synonymous with something dodgy: there is plenty of evidence that Gachet and his son traded off his van Gogh connection for the rest of his life. Indeed, it is likely that his good-for-nothing leech of a son faked a load of paintings and palmed them off as Vincent’s. But that’s another story!
A visit to Gachet’s house
In my previous trips to Auvers, I had managed to find Gachet’s house but as it was always privately owned and closed to the public, I had never seen inside. Since I was last here, the local authority has bought the house and turned it into a museum. The whole property is perched high up on a steep terrace of the Oise valley, with the garden terraced into small areas for flowers and vegetables.
Cezanne made a painting with Gachet’s house in it – it’s the tall one in the middle left.
We went to check it out.
In the garden, beneath a perspex cover, stands a red table. This was in daily use at chez Gachet and was the table on which Gachet leans in the portrait Vincent painted of Gachet in June 1890. (See first image on this page).
Another interesting exhibit is the piano in the drawing room. This piano is – apparently – the one Vincent painted 17-year-old Marguerite Gachet playing.
Upstairs is Gachet’s etching press on which Vincent made his one and only etching, a portrait of Dr Gachet. There are 61 known impressions of the copper plate – read more about it here – but many were made after Vincent’s death, by Gachet’s parasitic son, profiting on his tenuous van Gogh connection.
I was delighted to have seen Gachet’s house and pace out how far Vincent had to walk to get to it from his end of the village.
Are you an admirer of Vincent van Gogh?
Check out my hand painted map “The life and works of Vincent van Gogh”
This blog was first published in 2007. Reworked and republished in 2023.