MARCH is a special month for lovers of the masterpieces painted by Dutch post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh.
It not only marks the anniversary of van Gogh’s birth in 1853 but also his move to Paris 33 years later where his creativity absolutely blossomed.
And aficionados go to the French capital to bathe in the historic aura of this artistic genius so plagued by depressioin that he famously cut off his own right ear and just four years later committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a bullet from a revolver.
He was a disappontment to his clergyman father and otherwise loving mother, and had a confused relationship with his younger brother Theo, with whom he lived on and off in Paris.
The lovers of the works of van Gogh make a beeline to the Musée d’Orsay on the left bank of the River Seine.
It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a railway station built 12 decades ago to get tourists to and from the nearby 1900 Paris Expo.
In 1970, Philistines wanted to pull down this architecurally wonderful building, but saner thoughts prevailed and it was eventually listed as an historic monument.
The French government decided it would make a sensational sight for a museum to complent the Louvre and it was officially opened in December 1986 by the then-president, François Mitterrand.
There are among its exhibits in excess of 800 sculptures and more than 2000 paintings, including the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by such names as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and, of course, van Gogh.
I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.Vincent van Gogh
There are 25 paintings by the Dutch genius, including some of his most famous works and two of the 43 self-portrains he painted during his relatively short career.
They include some he painted in the suburb of Asnières, where Vincent lived for a while with Theo, noteably The Restaurant de la Sirène and Avenue in the Voyer d’Argenson Park.
The suburb is only 8km north-west of the centre of Paris, so tourists often head there to see the landmarks.
They are usually quite disappointed because these days it is a cheap, non-descript suburb on the Seine with little evidence of what inspired van Gogh.