Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853-1890
Title: Rooftops in Paris
Date: 1886
Medium: Oil on canvas
45.6 x 38.5 cm
Signed: lower left: Vincent
Credit Line: Purchased, 2007
Object Number: NGI.2007.2
DescriptionVan Gogh painted this view from Montmartre, where he lived with his brother Theo shortly after his arrival in Paris in February 1886. It is one of several panoramic views of the city that he made from their apartment at this time. The composition and muted colouring reveal how Van Gogh’s style was deeply rooted in the Dutch Realist tradition when he first came to Paris. Just a few months later he became acquainted with Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard and other artists of the ‘Petit Boulevard’, and his work assumed the vigorous impasto and heightened colour that it is best known for today.
Although he was largely self-taught, Van Gogh keenly followed Academic methods of artistic 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 transferred onto paper or canvas. In this small painting a grey horizon line divides the composition, so that the sky and cityscape are presented in almost equal proportions. Van Gogh held a lifelong fascination with skies and cloud formations, something that is evident in his art and in the vivid observations that he made in his letters.

March 2016

ProvenanceL. C. Enthoven, Voorburg; Fred. Muller & Cie., Amsterdam, 18th May 1920, lot 234; purchased by Kunsthandlung W. Scherjon, Utrecht; Galerie d'Art Huinck, Utrecht; purchased, Private Collection, 1926 and by descent; purchased, Sotheby's, London, 6 February 2007, Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale, lot 322
Exhibition HistoryVincent van Gogh Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, 2009

Shades of Grey: Painting without Colour, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 22 June - 29 September 2013

Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs, The Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, 22 March - 6 September 2015; Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 10 October 2015 - 17 January 2016
Label TextVan Gogh moved to Paris in the spring of 1886. He painted this panoramic view of the city from Montmartre shortly afterwards. Throughout his life, Van Gogh was fascinated with skies and cloud formations. Here, the low horizon gives prominence to an expanse of grey sky. This small painting with its subdued colouring reveals how deeply connected Van Gogh was to the Naturalist tradition when he first arrived in France. Just a few months after painting it, he met Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard, and his work began to assume the heightened colour and vigorous impasto that it is renowned for today.