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‘Van Gogh along the Seine’ Opens 13 October

Vincent van Gogh, ‘Bridges Across the Seine at Asnières’, 1887, oil on canvas, 53.5 × 67 cm, Emil Bührle Collection, on long-term loan at the Kunsthaus Zürich
Vincent van Gogh, ‘Bridges Across the Seine at Asnières’, 1887, oil on canvas, 53.5 × 67 cm, Emil Bührle Collection, on long-term loan at the Kunsthaus Zürich

From Friday 13 October 2023, the Van Gogh Museum presents a pioneering exhibition that explores for the very first time how the area along the Seine near Asnières, to the north-west of Paris, was crucial to the artistic development of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Signac, Georges Seurat, Emile Bernard and Charles Angrand.

Van Gogh along the Seine tells the story of a period in Van Gogh’s life and oeuvre that has, until now, been neglected. Never before have so many works that Van Gogh made in the suburbs just outside of Paris been displayed together. Seven of the nine highlights from his triptychs are being reunited. The exhibition features some 75 works by the five artists, including a considerable number of exceptional loans from private collections and museums all around the world. Many of these works have never before been on display in the Netherlands.

This exhibition is a collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago.

Emilie Gordenker (Director of the Van Gogh Museum): ‘As the international centre of expertise on Van Gogh, we are constantly seeking new insights into the artist. This is the first time that the works Van Gogh painted in Asnières have been examined as a group, and have been compared with the work of four contemporaries who painted in the same area. Van Gogh along the Seine is also a rare opportunity to see impressive loans from private collections that are normally hidden from view.’

Nature and industry

Urban development in Paris had a profound effect on the surrounding areas in the nineteenth century. Until 1850, Asnières – a suburb to the north-west of Paris – was known as an idyllic location full of greenery, where city-dwellers could enjoy spending their spare time. Modern train stations and iron bridges improved access to the Parisian suburbs, making them increasingly popular. In the years preceding 1880, the area underwent a rapid transformation. Industry flourished, and the rural suburbs were swallowed up by the explosive growth of the city.

In addition to the convenient location, close to the French capital, it was precisely these dramatic changes to the landscape that attracted Vincent van Gogh, Paul Signac, Georges Seurat, Emile Bernard and Charles Angrand to the area between 1881 and 1890. With their easels positioned in the lush landscape, they captured the radical opposition that characterised the area: day trippers enjoying nature were in strong contrast with smoking chimneys and undeveloped land.

Neglected period

Until now, the fact that Van Gogh left the city nearly every day for three months during his two-year stay in Paris has remained widely unknown. Van Gogh worked in and around Asnières, making some forty paintings from early May until the end of July 1887. The area was about five kilometres from where he lived in Montmartre, and Van Gogh went on foot with his painters’ supplies nearly every day in order to capture the changing landscape. He viewed this period as a ‘painting campaign’, in which he wanted to discover new motifs and experiment extensively with style and use of colour.

Van Gogh was not the only artist to be attracted to Asnières. He was following the example of painters like Seurat, Signac, Bernard and Angrand, who had also started working on the banks of the river to the north-west of Paris. On La Grande Jatte, an island in the Seine near Asnières, Seurat developed his revolutionary stippling technique (pointillism), which he further refined together with Signac. Bernard also started using his characteristic painting style in the suburbs: cloisonnism, using large, flat areas of colour with strong contours. It was on the banks of the Seine that Van Gogh first experimented with the colourful portrayal of light, using loose brushwork. And it was here that he took significant steps towards the brightly-coloured paintings that he made in the South of France. When he ultimately returned into nature a year later in Arles, the same energy and productivity was reignited in him as during his campaign in Asnières.

‘And when I painted landscape in Asnières this summer I saw more colour in it than before’
Vincent van Gogh to his sister Willemien, 1887

New discoveries

Drawing on new and in-depth art historical research, the exhibition sheds light for the first time on the artistic revolution that took place in Asnières. An international team of experts studied historical photographs and postcards and were able to establish the exact locations of the paintings and to chart the small area in which the works were made. The period in Asnières had a significant impact on all five artists, inspiring them to refresh both their use of colour and painting technique. By leaving the city and heading into the suburbs, they were they able to continue to modernise painting.

Van Gogh’s tripychs

The artistic highlight of Van Gogh’s time in Asnières is the three triptychs that he made there: a total of nine paintings. He captured the diverse character of three locations where he worked. The Grande Jatte triptych is sketchy; the Clichy triptych is pale green, and the Asnières triptych is lively, with bridges, boats and restaurants. The paintings, which have scattered around various private and museum collections, are now being brought back together.

Seven of the nine works are being reunited for this exhibition, including highlights such as: Bridges Across the Seine at Asnières (1887, Kunsthaus Zürich), Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy (Asnières) (1887, The Art Institute of Chicago), A Woman Walking in a Garden (1887, private collection) and River Bank in Springtime (1887, Dallas Museum of Art). This is this first time that the paintings are being displayed together.

Special loans from private collections

A total of more than sixty paintings and fifteen drawings will be on display, including no fewer than twenty-five works from private collections. Van Gogh’s Banks of the Seine with the Pont de Clichy (1887, private collection) last went on public display in 1959, and has never before been exhibited in the Netherlands. Bank of the Seine with Boats (1887, private collection), will be displayed to the public for the first time since 1984.

Two iconic paintings by Angrand and Seurat of the Seine are being reunited for the first time since the summer of 1888, when the two artists worked side by side on their paintings on the island of La Grande Jatte.


The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue that offers insight into how the area around Asnières inspired the five painters. Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: Along the Seine features essays by researchers and curators, as well as images of all of the works on display in the exhibition. The book also includes a unique section with postcards, which together form a visual essay introducing the places where the artists worked. The catalogue is edited by Bregje Gerritse from the Van Gogh Museum and Jacquelyn N. Coutré from the Art Institute of Chicago. The other contributing authors are Jena Carvana, Charlotte Hellman, Joost van der Hoeven, François Lespinasse, Teio Meedendorp and Richard Thomson. The catalogue is published by THOTH, Bussum. The book is available in both English and Dutch, and costs € 29.95.

Supporters Van Gogh along the Seine has been made possible by the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the museum’s main partners: the VriendenLoterij, ASML and DHL. The exhibition is also supported by Van Lanschot Kempen and the Sunflower Circle.

Van Gogh along the Seine is on display from 13 October 2023 to 14 January 2024.

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