Boulevard de Clichy, 1887

What we see here is the neighbourhood close to the Paris apartment where Vincent lived with his brother Theo from 1886-1887. We look westward on the Boulevard de Clichy where many of his fellow artists lived, such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.

Down the road, at nr. 104 was the studio of Fernand Cormon, where Vincent took lessons and he met Émile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec. Vincent called this avant-garde group of artists ‘The painters of the Petit Boulevard’ in order to contrast them with the more established impressionists like Monet, who had their dealers at the ‘Grand Boulevard’.

Van Gogh had seen the work of neo-impressionists like Seurat and Signac, and he readily absorbed their modern notions of colour.

Their meticulous application of dots in pure colour, straight from the tube, was perhaps too precise for Vincent’s character. Vincent’s temperament betrays itself with his use of dynamic dabs of pure colour, loosely applied to the canvas that remains visible throughout the oeuvre.

The Van Gogh Museum Relievo Edition technique enables us to experience this hasty technique. The paint has been applied in a single session, like a watercolour. There is one exception: in the left foreground the silhouette of a woman crosses the boulevard. Her position is an afterthought: Vincent has moved her to the left and the original figure, all but scratched out, can still be seen and felt in the Edition.

By Fred Leeman Former Chief Curator of the Van Gogh Museum 08-10-2015