Many of the around 200,000 annual visitors who journey to Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of Paris, pay their respects at the grave of Vincent van Gogh by leaving sunflowers or bits of wheat from the nearby fields that he painted shortly before his death on July 29, 1890. Last July, on the anniversary of his passing from a self-inflicted bullet wound, Le Figaro reported that instead of flowers, the local Institut van Gogh was asking for donations to preserve this fragile site.
Water damage from bad storms in October 2015, inadequate drainage at the cemetery, and the heavy foot traffic have taken their toll on the burial ground, where van Gogh’s brother Theo, who died shortly after him, is also interred. Hannah McGivern at the Art Newspaper reported this week that the council of Auvers-sur-Oise is teaming with the nonprofit Institut Van Gogh on a crowdfunding campaign to raise €600,000 (~$647,640) for needed repairs at the village graveyard. The planned work includes a cemetery drainage system, shelter, bathrooms, lighting, a lockable entrance, and a redesign of the surrounding landscape to better reflect it as immortalized in van Gogh’s last canvases.
The cemetery is a short walk from Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, which van Gogh painted in a June 1890 piece now at the Musée d’Orsay. That structure has also suffered significant water damage and has a leaky roof, which were the focus of a preceding crowdfunding campaign. On the way to the cemetery, you pass by a wheat field he painted in 1890, during his final 70 days spent in Auvers-sur-Oise. The van Gogh brothers are not the only eternal art residents in the cemetery, which includes monuments to sculptor Léon Fagel and the painter Charles-François Daubigny. Yet Vincent continues to draw the crowds to the plot he shares with his art dealer and brother Theo. It’s covered with ivy, said to be cultivated from the garden of his friend Dr. Paul Gachet. In the early 1900s, a more formal memorial involving a cast bronze medallion was proposed for this humble place, but it was never executed. Now, van Gogh’s 21st-century fans can help protect the modest headstone that commemorates the celebrated Dutch artist.
Donations to support the preservation of the graves of Vincent and Theo van Gogh can be made online via the Institut van Gogh.