Van Gogh’s years in Paris

Interestingly, we didn’t look for specific Van Gogh locations in Paris as we did when we went to Arles and then Auvers-Sur-Oise. While there are some locations worth seeing, many, like the apartment he shared with Theo on the third floor at 54 Rue Lepic, are private residences.

Vincent and Theo lived at 54 Rue Lepic, Paris

It must have been an intense few years on the third floor at 54 Rue Lepic with Vincent and Theo sharing an apartment. Not as much is known about these years because of course he wasn't writing letters to Theo.

In Paris he worked at his usual pace. In a little over two years, he produced over 200 paintings. Among them, many flowers, portraits of friends and fellow artists, at least 27 self-portraits, copies of Japanese prints which were all the rage in Paris at the time, and some street scenes, most notably a series of windmills. He also painted some of the bridges across the Seine but they didn’t seem interesting enough for us to want to see the real thing.

Many of these paintings, especially the flowers, ended up in junk stores to be scooped up by sharp-eyed collectors later on. One reason for this is that he had decorated the walls of one of his favorite cafes with flower pictures. He was having an affair with the owner for a time. Despite, or perhaps because of his patronage, the cafe went bankrupt and all the assets were seized, including his paintings.

I wonder whether it irks the French that so much fuss is made over a Dutch artist?

It was while he was in Paris that he was introduced to many of the impressionist and post-impressionist painters. Mostly because of Theo, he met Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (who did a wonderful portrait of Van Gogh in a cafe), Emile Bernard, Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat and, fatefully, Paul Gauguin.

Being in their company had a great influence on his palette and he tried his hand at techniques used by the others. You can see Seurat’s dots in some of his paintings from this period.

But finally, Paris became too noisy for him and Van Gogh left for Arles to pursue his dream of a “studio in the south” and truly establish the style that most of us identify with his art.

Vincent's view from the 3rd floor at 54 Rue Lepic.

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