USA/FRANCE  Robert John Wickenden - Brother of Thomas Rogers Wickenden and James William Wickenden

ROBERT JOHN WICKENDEN.  A brief biography of Robert John Wickenden was written by his great-grandson, Ken Watson.

A thesis on Robert J. Wickenden (1861-1931) and the Late 19th Century Print Revival was written in 1989 by Susan J. Gustavision for her Master's of Arts degree in Art History at Concordia University.  rjw-thesis-with-figures.pdf 

Information about Robert J. Wickenden's ancestors is available on Ken Watson's Wickenden Geneology website.  

French Bio - Robert Bio.pdf


Print (La Mere Pannecaye) and list of references.pdf

Article (in French) from Revue du Vrai et du Beau, 1893.pdf

ALFRED WICKENDEN.  Robert's son Alfred wrote a memoir about Robert John and Ada Ahier Wickenden and the family home in Auvers, France.  Castle in Bohemia.pdf  This document was supplemented by Alfred with another memoir for the years1900 - 1906. storm is our weather.pdf   

YVONNE WICKENDEN.  Robert's daughter Yvonne wrote a story of her father's participation in the funeral of Vincent Van Gogh.  Yvonne's Van Gogh paper.pdf


Ruth Wickenden Abel (daughter of Homer E. Wickenden, a nephew of Robert John Wickenden) saw this picture in a documentary about Vincent van Gogh.  She writes "That has to be Uncle Rob's house because it was the only one on that street with a red roof and a turret. ...The house ... was not in the position shown in the painting, Actually it was on the right side of the road on the hill across the street from the Daubigny's, so he put it in the background for artistic effect" (personal email messages, 4/17, 18/2020).  There are pictures of the house in Alfred's book, "Castle in Bohemia" and on Ken Watson's website.  (See below.)  This painting, called "Village Street and Stairs with Figures" is in the Saint Louis Art Museum collection.  It is a beautiful painting by van Gogh during the last year of his life when he lived in Auvers and was treated by Dr. Gachet.  During this time, he painted one picture each day.  

Alfred describes life in the home overlooking the valleys leading down to the Oise river throughout his memoir "Castle in Bohemia," attached above.  In particular, he writes that" the old stone house consisting of two main buildings more or less connected. It was centuries old, I am sure. I kept discovering pennies under tiles, floors, in the yard, dating back one century or more, mostly coins from the reign of Louis XVI. In Marie Pique's old house, we found one copper dated in the 1400's with the Stamp of Charles VIII of France. The roof, as I stated previously, was thatch, a very great fire risk during dry spells, though immeasurably picturesque" (Castle, p. 49) 

We moved to the old farm on the side of the hill of 'les Vallees' where Alice was born on May 9, 1888. Father and Mother had a grand time of it in this old barn of a place. Talk about love in a Cottage! He was 27, she was 22. A baby boy and a baby girl. They were supremely happy. Never mind the leaky roof! It could be stuffed with more straw! The stove did not work? Why not use the huge fireplace where one could stand erect and look up the chimney shaft at blue skies and stars, even at noon day? The rats did prove an annoyance. Mother would faint at the sight of a mouse. She would become petrified by the presence of a rat. Father chased them all over the roof of an old wagon shed firing a little bull dog revolver at them.... He had plenty of excitement, so did the rats; not one did he get. All he succeeded in doing was scaring me to death and arousing the somewhat fearful admiration of his delightful bride" (Castle, p. 27).

 Here are some  pictures of the house from Ken Watson's website.

Comparison with the painting shows some artful distortion of perspective and details by Van Gogh.  The vines climbing on the house in his painting are shown also in Wickenden's lithograph and the marks they left after having been pruned away are visible behind the family in the photo on the right.  The windows and doors are of different sizes and shapes.  Most notably, van Gogh has widened the turret substantially, which appears quite small in Robert's paintings, and he depicts what Alfred describes as a large water pump and trough at the base of the building on the left.  However, it is the twisting stairs, walls and hills below the house that give van Gogh's painting its distinctive feeling...along with the vivid and contrasting colors.

Here are some pictures from Google Maps of Robert's studio and house:  

Below is a link to the Google Maps site for the studio in Auvers.  You can navigate around the map, and also see street views.  The most spectacular views, however, are arial shots (from a plane or a drone?) that you can see if you pull back from the street view, tilt the picture and then move it around the village.  Here's the link to the Google Maps URL:,2.1699938,3a,90y,79.85h,84.09t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sQ2K6hddMr2NnILnEVQ-Wgw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m16!1m7!3m6!1s0x47e65e8cddf63dfd:0x5eb6a65bc56f596d!2s95430+Auvers-sur-Oise,+France!3b1!8m2!3d49.070852!4d2.17081!3m7!1s0x47e65fa7850d5703:0x61e07fc3dbc75b5e!5m2!4m1!1i2!8m2!3d49.0734077!4d2.1698032

Alfred writes that "Auvers-sur-Oise was then a little village somewhere North of Paris, on the Oise, in the Department of Seine-et-Oise. Its population, most agricultural, was some 3000 people in a straggling village divided into Hamlets: Butry, Chaponval, which almost touched the small city Pontoise, some four miles away. ...this little pastoral place had sheltered several high lights of art in the recent past, Charles Francois Daubigny, Jean Camille Corot, Van Gogh, Cezanne and lesser lights" (Castle, p. 29. These artists liked to gather and discuss their craft.  Referring to Robert's diary, Alfred tells of several artists who came to the house to visit, including "a group of young Dutchmen, van Gogh among them. I was afraid of his somber, brooding appearance. But the fellow who scared me most was a madcap named Hirshwick. In the evening we accompanied this group to the train. In the waiting room of the little Auvers station there was a lamp hanging to a hook in the ceiling. Hirshwick used to scare me into fits by threatening to hang me to the hook by his watch chain. The utter impossibility of the whole thing was more than I could stand. At any rate Van Gogh shot himself and was buried at Auvers.  Father pronounced the customary 'few words' at the grave to the scant assembled friends, and we never were visited by the Dutch group again" (Castle, p.60).  The story by Yvonne Wickenden above describes in several beautifully written pages, Robert's role in arranging for Van Gogh's funeral.

In a sequel to a Metropolitean Museum of Art exibition catalog, "Van Gogh in Saint-Remy and Auvers" by Ronald Pickvance (1986), the author writes that "the street shown is the one immediately adjacent to Ravoux' Inn, the Rue de la Sansonne.  The motif is still recognizable today, though the distinctive stairs connecting the two street levels are no longer there."  By following Google Maps to Rue de la Sansonne, we find the home pictured below (with a placard describing this as the site of the picture.  It is approximately two blocks from Robert's studio and home, it lacks a turret and visually is much less interesting:  

The author writes that "the seemingly unstable composition is less an expression of van Gogh's state of mind (the equation is made more dramatic if the painting is dated, as it generally is, to July rather than late May) than of his utterly truthful acceptance of the idiosyncratic motif:  curiously curving walls, odd changes in level, very little sky.  Van Gogh made no drawing comparable to the painting, abandoning a working process he followed frequently  his early activity in Auvers" (p. 228).  Apparently the author was not aware of a rough painting made perhaps as a study for this painting that is in a private collection in Japan.  This painting shows the house and studio as they are in the painting above, and includes the stairs and two women in the street. In addition there are two other paintings of similar scenes that may be of the same street, one that has no people in it and the other appears to be from a slightly different position.  So clearly, Van Gogh was attracted to the visual intricacies of the streets and stairs up the hills in the neighborhood of Robert's studio and home.

Interestingly, there is a recent article about what appears to be the last painting by Vincent, made on the very day he died.  The location is on Rue Daubigney, which is still a rural road, although now it is paved.  The exact location of the tree roots that are featured in Van Gogh's painting has not been found since the hillsides are all grown over.  However, it is probably only a short walk down the road from Robert's home and likely less than a mile from the village inn where Van Gogh stayed.  This inn is only three or four blocks from Robert's studio and home.  

The URL to the article and postcard with the painting is the following: