Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Rooftops in Paris, 1886
Oil on canvas, 45.6 x 38.5 cm
Signed: lower left: Vincent
Vincent van Gogh moved to Paris in February 1886. He painted this view of the city from Montmartre, where he lived with his brother Theo, in the spring of that year.
Van Gogh shows the Paris extending southwards from the Butte de Montmartre with the towers of the Palais de Trocadéro visible in the distance. The painting is one of four related views that he executed at this time and, like the others, it is painted in tones typical of the French naturalist painters Jules Breton and Jean-François Millet, whose work he admired.
Although he was largely self-taught, van Gogh keenly followed Academic methods of art practice by emphasising drawing before colour. From 1881 he often worked with a perspective frame. This stringed, box-like, structure divided a viewed space into sections so that it could be depicted on paper or canvas. In Rooftops in Paris a grey ribbon of horizon divides the composition so that sky and landscape are presented in more or less equal proportions. The painting demonstrates van Gogh's fascination with 'skyscapes' and his interest in the work of John Constable.
Painted in 1886, the year of the final Impressionist exhibition, this work reveals how van Gogh's style was deeply rooted in the Dutch Realist tradition when he first arrived in Paris. Just a few months later he came to know Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard and other artists of the 'Petit Boulevard' and his paintings began to assume the vigorous impasto and heightened colour that he is best known for today.
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