After the Netherlands and Belgium, my search for places related to life and work of Van Gogh brought me to Paris next. Vincent lived there on a few occasions. But, the most important one was between 1886 and 1888 when he decided to pursue his career as a painter and learn at the art centre of his time. There are many places related to him there, so here is my guide with some of the must-see places related to Van Gogh in Paris.
Vincent van Gogh in Paris
Vincent wrote in one of his letters:
And mind my dear fellow, Paris is Paris, there is but one Paris and however hard living may be here and if it became worse and harder even – the French air clears up the brain and does one good – a world of good.
I couldn’t agree with him more. There’s something special in Paris….
Paris was an art centre of the world in 1886 when Van Gogh came there to pursue his painting career. Famous Impressionists were working in a city and a new generation of post-Impressionists already started to experiment with their new styles. Vincent moved there after spending the last five years in the Netherlands, painting with dark colours and focusing on a tough life of peasants. At the very end of 1885 he went to Antwerp in Belgium to start taking some art classes at the Art Academy there. However, that didn’t last for long, and in spring of 1886 Van Gogh is arriving in Paris.
Locations related to Van Gogh’s life and work in Paris
Vincent came a bit earlier than planned, and started to live with his brother Theo in a small apartment at Rue Victor Masse 25. Some two months later they moved at a bigger, more suitable apartment on Rue Lepic 54, where he had a big studio, as well. Both of those buildings could still be seen in Paris today.
I was quite lucky to meet with a lovely designer, artist and a 19th-Century-Art-in-Paris expert Ana (you can check her beautiful designs and book a tour with her on a link here). This was my second tour with her in Paris, and I’m definitely recommending her as a guide there!
Ana and I took a walk around Montmartre during which she showed me some places related to Vincent’s life and those of his acquaintances. We saw a place where Pere Tanguy’s art supply shop was. This is where Van Gogh saw some of the first Japanese prints, that were so influential on his work later on. We also saw some of the places where Vincent painted some of his paintings, like that famous one of Rue de Clichy.
It was so interesting to see how close to one of his good friends (and influences), Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec he lived, as well. Their studios were just a block away from each other. George Seurat’s studio wasn’t far away either.
While walking around Montmartre with Ana, I could almost see those first modern painters walking around the streets, meeting at cafés there and looking for the right light to capture on their paintings.
It’s incredible how during less than two years Van Gogh spent in Paris, he has changed so much. He discovered colours and started to show them in his paintings. He learned so quickly.
Addresses of locations related to Van Gogh’s life around Montmartre:
# – Rue Victor Masse 25, Paris – First apartment where Vincent and Theo lived together in spring of 1886
# – Rue Lepic 54, Paris – Apartment in which Theo and Vincent lived together and where Vincent had his studio
# – Rue Tourlaque 5, Paris – Location of Henry de Toulouse -Lautrec’s studio
# – Rue Clauzel 14, Paris – Location of Pere Tanguy’s art supply shop
# – Hameau des artistes 5, Paris – Windmill from one of Van Gogh’s painting
# – Boulevard de Clichy 62, Paris – Location of Le Tambourin café
# – Boulevard de Clichy 128bis, Paris – Location of George Seurat’s studio
Van Gogh’s art in museums in Paris
Paris is a home to so many great museums and some very nice collections of Van Gogh’s paintings. Here are some places you shouldn’t miss if looking for Van Gogh’s art in Paris.
# – Musee d’Orsay
Musee d’Orsay doesn’t have a huge collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, but they have some of his best work. A version of his ‘Bedroom in Arles’ and some of the paintings he painted at Auvers-sur-Oise are there. One of my favourite of his self-portraits is there, too. And a portrait of Eugene Bosh. In my opinion, one of his best paintings.
In two rooms dedicated to his work, Vincent’s paintings are exhibiting next to those of Paul Gauguin. So, it’s great to see how they’ve influenced each other, too.
However, not only his own paintings are captivating for someone looking to find out more about Vincent’s work. Musee d’Orsay is a great place to see some of the painters that influenced Vincent a lot. They have a vast collection of paintings from the Barbizon school, who, with their motives of peasants, influenced Vincent a lot during his first five years of painting. One of the best collections of Impressionist work is also interesting to be seen because many of those painters were inspiring to Vincent while he lived in Paris, too.
# – Digital Exhibition about Van Gogh
While I was in Paris, I was quite lucky to see a digital exhibition about Van Gogh organised at the Atelier des Lumieres. It’s open until the end of the year, so if you have a chance, be sure to visit it, as well.
I didn’t really know what to expect from it, but I was so amazed with it in the end. It was literally like I’ve stepped in some of his paintings. And it made me feel his colours and brush strokes a bit better. The whole projection lasts for around an hour, and they are telling the story of Vincent’s life through the music and light projections of details from his paintings. It was really a fantastic experience.
# – Musee Louvre
Although being very much in front of his time with his art, Vincent actually loved to learn from the old masters. That’s why he was quite frequent at the Louvre Museum, where he was learning about painting from the example of those classical painters. You won’t find any of his paintings there, but you can see a place where he would often come during his time in Paris.
During those two years Van Gogh spent in Paris, he changed completely. He met some of the best modern painters of his time (like Toulouse-Lautrec, George Seurat, Emile Bernard…) and learned from them. He was experimenting with their styles and that, eventually, helped him to develop his own unique style.
However, after those two years in Paris, he wanted to found ‘his own Japan’. Those bright colours and unusual motives, he has seen on the prints he has was buying at the Pere Tanguy’s shop. So, he moved once again. To the very south of France, to Arles this time.
You can read all of the posts from my Van Gogh trip below:
# – I’m going to follow the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh
# – Visiting Kröller-Müller Museum
# – Vincent Van Gogh in the Netherlands
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Belgium
# – Vincent van Gogh in Paris
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Arles
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
# – General info about my Van Gogh trip
*My search for places related to Vincent’s life was supported and organized by the Van Gogh Europe. Many thanks to them and my lovely guide Ana for showing me around.