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Vincent van Gogh in Paris

Paris was the centre of the art world in those days. The two years that Vincent van Gogh spent in Paris were of crucial importance for his development for painter in the Dutch Realist tradition to modern artist.

Vincent's development for painter from Dutch Realist tradition to modern artist

Van Gogh's life in Paris


Van Gogh went to live with his brother Theo

It was at the end of February 1886 that Vincent van Gogh went to live with his brother Theo in Paris. The French capital was the centre of the art world in those days.

When the Antwerp drawing course had finished in February, Vincent could no longer pay his rent he decided to go to Paris without further delay. He arrived there unannounced, putting Theo on the spot, who had little choice but to take him in.

Theo lived in a small apartment at 25 rue Victor Massé, at the foot of the Butte Montmartre. Cormon's atelier was nearby, on Boulevard de Clichy, and Vincent worked there for the first few months after his arrival until he and Theo moved to 54 Rue Lepic on the Butte Montmartre.

The two years that Van Gogh spent in Paris were of crucial importance for his development from painter in the Dutch Realist tradition to modern artist. His encounter with the latest movement there had a profound impact on his work, although it was a gradual process rather than a abrupt break with what had gone before.

Vincent began experimenting with new styles like impressionism, Pointillism and Japonism. As he gradually abandoned what he later called his Dutch palette of grey tones his paintings became increasingly luminous and colorful.

Cormons atelier

Cormons atelier libre

Van Gogh worked at Cormon's for the first few months after his arrival. Cormon had the reputation of being more broad-minded than most academic artists and since Van Gogh had come to the conclusion in Antwerp that an official academy was not for him it is not surprising that he chose Cormon's studio.

The students worked there from the nude and the draped model and Cormon used to come once a week to give advice and instruction. Van Gogh mainly made drawings of the human figure. He remained with Cormon for three or four months but did not find that so useful.

He did make friends with other painters. John Peter Russell, Emile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Julien Tanguy

Colourman Julien Père Tanguy

He got to know many of his new friends at the shop of the colourman Julien Tanguy, who had works by avant-garde artists on commission and exhibited them. For a long time that small shop in Rue Clauzel was the only place in Paris where work by Paul Cézanne could be seen, and Van Gogh also entrusted paintings to Tanguy. It was there that he struck up a friendship in autumn of 1886 with Emile Bernard, who was 15 years his junior and whom he had first met at Cormon's studio.

Emile recalled their meeting at Tanguy's as follows. When he emerged from the back shop, with his high, broad forehead, he was striking I was almost frightened, but we soon made friends.

Daily life in Paris

Daily life in Paris

Montmartre was still an El Dorado then, and Vincent was always sitting out there somewhere in the sun, with his work and his pipe, at the brickyard, or painting a woman in a vegetable stall, with all reflections in purple, blue and orange which the sunny ebvironment conjured up in it.

Vincent had promised Theo to keep an eye on the material side, and when he had finally persuaded him to come out for a meal, then Vincent did drop everything right away.

The nearby Boulevard de Clichy and Boulevard de Rochechouart at the foot of the Butte contained many places of entertainment, among them the café-cabaret venue Le Mirliton, café de Tambourin (Van Gogh's favorite), the Elysée-Montmartre dance hall, the circus Fernando.

Windmills on top of the Butte

Windmills on top of the Butte

The windmills on top of the Butte featured in countless paintings, prints and advertising posters at the end of the 19th century. Van Gogh painted street scenes and landscapes, seeking out the picturesque tourist attractions, undoubtedly in the hope of selling his works, which was one of the reasons he had come to Paris in the first place.

One appealing and obvisous subjects was the windmills on the Butte Montmartre. There had been fourteen originally, but only three were left. The Moulin de Butte-fin, Moulin Radet and Moulin a Poivre (gone today). They were on a site known as the Moulin de la Galette. Which was only a stone's throw away from the apartment on Rue Lepic.

Another famous landmark was the black cat adorning of the signboard of cabaret Le Chat Noir. Which also played a leading role in the art of Théophile Alexandre Steinlen.

> Read more ... The Street Scene from Montmartre, Le Moulin a Poivre, is for sale as hand painted quality reproduction, made by Loek de Winter.

Boulevard de Clichy

The Impressionists

The Impressionists wanted to record life in the modern city in all its facets. Boulevards, the Seine, railway stations, parks and cafés. With their detailed descriptions of café interiors, life out of the streets and views over Paris.

Van Gogh idiosyncratically combined the a l'essense art technique with small dots and dabs in pure, unmixed colors. The systematic way he set about this suggests that the Pointillist paintings by Signac, Seurat and Pisarro at the exhibitions of the avant-garde.

One of his few street scenes in Paris is a drawing of Boulevard de Clichy that he made in 1887, together with a painting of the same spot. A little further along the boulevard was the Tambourin Café, owned by Agostina Segatori. Van Gogh, who followed his friends' experiments closely, was thinking of the Anquetins, when he painted his famous Terrace of a café at night in Arles.

> Read more ... Reproduction Pork-Butcher's Shop, Rue Lepic seen from a window, is for sale as hand painted quality reproduction.

The Tambourin café

The Tambourin café

The Tambourin café, cabaret and restaurant in Boulevard de Clichy was run by the Italien Agostina Segatori. She was a former artists' model, and her café was very popular with artists and writers.

The tables and stools were in shape of tambourines, and the walls were hung full of tambourines decorated by painters and inscribed by writers.

Van Gogh and Segatori were lovers for a while, but it is not known how serious ther affair was or how long it lasted. Van Gogh gave her paintings in exchange of meals.

Gauguin said: Van gogh was very much in love with La Segatori.

The Seine

The Seine

Van Gogh was a countryman not a city-dweller, and that was his preference in art too. In addition, it was not easy for him to work in the city, as Theo later told about Vincent: In Paris he saw masses of things he wanted to paint, but time and again he was prevented for doing so.

In 1887 Van Gogh accordingly shifted his focus from Montmartre to rural Asnieres on the other side of the Seine, where he produced more than 30 river views and landscapes.

> Read more ... Reproduction The Seine with the Pont de la Grande Jatte, 1887 is for sale as hand painted quality reproduction.

The Yellow House

The Yellow House

Vincent van Gogh took it upon himself to improve their financial situation with Theo's aid. The brothers had talked a lot with Pissarro and the others an artists' association, an idea which Van Gogh developed. All te painters, including the succesful ones, would have to donate paintings of the same value to the association, so that all of them were assured of a fixed income.

Although Van Gogh later said that the lack of unity between artsts was one of the reasons for him turning his back on the city.

Also a reason was that models didn't want to pose for him, he was forbidden to sit and work in the street and because of his volatile disposition this repeatedly led to scenes, which upset him so much that he became completely unapproachable and by the end of it all he had more than enough of Paris.

Almost immediately after arriving in Arles, he began laying plans for a joint Impressionist exhibition in Marseille, and wrote to Emile Bernard telling him about the advantages and drawbacks of the south of France. He also wrote to Toulouse-Lautrec.

It was not long afterwards that Van Gogh rented the Yellow House with the intention of turning it into a studio for himself and another artist, preferably Gauguin.

He hung it from top to bottom with his paintings, creating his own exhibition space.


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