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The Quest to Save Vincent van Gogh’s Grave

His final resting place is in disrepair, so fans of the tormented artist are pitching in to save it

Wanted: a few patrons to help preserve Vincent van Gogh's grave for future generations. (Van Gogh Institute)
smithsonian.com

In 1890, Vincent van Gogh, flattened by depression and loneliness and plagued by financial woes, shot himself in the midst of a wheat field in Auvers, France. As Atlas Obscura notes, he was buried in the public cemetery of the village in the midst of the landscapes he so loved to paint. He was 37. His brother, Theo, died just six months later at 33 years of age and was buried next to his brother. 

Now, The Art Newspaper’s Hannah McGiven reports, a group devoted to van Gogh's memory is working to preserve the church and cemetery where the brothers graves rest. The organization's task became urgent following a natural disaster in October 2015. As McGiven writes, a catastrophic storm ripped through Auvers. The church and cemetery didn’t fare that well; the roof of the church collapsed and the gravestones in the cemetery, which was waterlogged beneath the driving rain, sustained damage.

The cemetery is in need of public restrooms, lighting, a secure entrance, better landscaping and a drainage system to prevent further damage. But even before the storm hit, the cemetery needed help. Some 200,000 admirers visit it each year to pay tribute to one of the artworld's greats, and as Institut Van Gogh, the nonprofit spearheading the restoration writes, "these simple tombs were never meant to be visited by such large numbers, and their surroundings need to be completely redesigned."

The group tells McGiven, they're hoping to raise an estimated $642,000 to finance the restorations by July. That’s a lot of dough—but then again, van Gogh did contribute a lot to art and culture. The artist also had an eye for beauty in this world—and the sensitive soul might just have appreciated new patrons chipping in to ensure the resilience of his final resting place. 

Find out more information about the Institut Van Gogh's efforts here.

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