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Second room
Thatched Cottages and New Houses

The day after his arrival, Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo: "Auvers is very beautiful, among other things a lot of old thatched roofs, which are getting rare. [.] It is the real country, characteristic and picturesque". At the time when Van Gogh arrived in Auvers, the straw, cane or branch roofs were disappearing and being replaced by vividly coloured slate or tiles. "But I find the modern villas and the middle-class country houses", Van Gogh wrote in another letter, "almost as pretty as the old thatched cottages which are falling into ruin".

The contrast between the thatched cottages and the new and brightly coloured houses would become the central motif of the works Van Gogh painted between May and June. This contrast refers not only to a historical-social reality-the modernisation of the French countryside-but for Van Gogh also expressed his own evolution as a painter. For the artist, the thatched cottages embodied the picturesque cultivated by the Barbizon and Hague School painters who had inspired his early years in Holland. The colourful, modern villas corresponded with Impressionism which the artist had discovered after his arrival in Paris. Thus the physical appearance of Auvers seemed to Van Gogh to be an image of his own career, with its opposing and complementary phases.
Houses at Auvers

Vincent van Gogh
Houses at Auvers, 1890
Oil on canvas. 60 x 73 cm.
Toledo Museum of Art;
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment,
Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1935.5
F 759 JH 1988
Houses at Auvers

Vincent van Gogh
Houses at Auvers, 1890
Oil on canvas. 75,6 x 61,9 cm.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Bequest of John T. Spaulding
F 805 JH 1989