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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Brandt

Get to Know Van Gogh on Your River Cruise

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

The Beautiful Rhone River

Many of the most memorable moments of a Europe river cruise take place off the ship - as lovely as the ships are - in the winding alleyways of a charming hamlet, in a family-owned restaurant or behind the scenes in an artist’s studio. It is these off-the-beaten-path experiences that reveal the true heart of a destination. If you’ve come for the food and wine, perhaps you’ll find yourself at a private tasting in Austria’s Wachau Valley. If you’re a history buff, you might be shadowing an expert guide through the 11th-century Marksburg Castle. And for those who are art aficionados, you may wind up tracing the footsteps of Van Gogh in Arles, France.

Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat

Finding Van Gogh in France

Ah, a Van Gogh … those swirling blue and flowing stars of the mystical night sky and the pop of yellow sunflowers in the fields of Provence. While our minds gravitate to the masterpieces for which Van Gogh is best known, there is so much more to learn about this incredible artist. And the Provencal town of Arles, with its buzzing streets, bright-yellow buildings and olive trees, is the place to do it.

As you wind through the cobblestone streets of Arles and along the Rhone River, you’ll see various plaques and easels with pictures of Van Gogh’s paintings. Look around you and notice that the location you’re in reflects the scene in the painting. Visit the Alyscamps Necropolis, where he painted four scenes while sitting in these ancient Roman ruins. Picnic in the Jardin d’Ete, an urban green space where once Van Gogh would come to paint on sunny summer days. At the corner of Rue Leon Blum and Rue Amedee Pichot, see the building where Van Gogh first stayed, in a room above the Restaurant Carrel. Everywhere you look, you’ll see his inspirations for such masterpieces as “Bedroom in Arles,” “The Yellow House” and “Cafe Terrace Night,” known for their vibrant yellows, aquamarine and mauve.

Lavender & Sunflowers in Provence

Continue your river cruise through the south of France, through Burgundy and more of Provence, soaking up the natural beauty and ambiance that served as the muse for Van Gogh’s scenic landscapes, or paysages. Much of his painting took place in France, but should you care to extend your “studies,” consider a European river cruise in other areas of the continent, where Van Gogh also followed his muses.

A Museum of Masterpieces

Before moving to France, Van Gogh had spent half his life in the Netherlands and Belgium. To dive deeper into his life and works, a pre- or post-cruise stop in Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum is in order (add the city to your Europe itinerary, or sail the Rhine and Moselle, which typically include a stop here). The museum holds the largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world. Get a glimpse into the tormented artist’s mind as you stroll the halls of the most-visited museum in the Netherlands.

Whether traipsing about Arles or visiting the charming town of Auvers-sur-Oise along the Seine where Van Gogh spent his final weeks, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of this troubled, but brilliantly gifted artist who left the world with true masterpieces.

Art lovers, let’s chat. I’d love to plan an art-focused river cruise for you, with an emphasis on Van Gogh and Europe’s other masters. Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page.


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