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Boulevard de Clichy 104

Van Gogh in

Cormon’s studio

  1. 28 Feb. 1886

In order to practise drawing and painting from live models, Vincent went to study under Fernand Cormon (1845–1924), a French painter who had made a name for himself in the salons of Paris. Before leaving Antwerp, Vincent had made plans to go to Cormon’s studio to improve his knowledge and skill in figure drawing.

In early March 1886, just after his arrival in Paris, he joined Cormon’s “atelier libre” (open studio) on the ground floor at 104 Boulevard de Clichy. The artists drew from casts of classical sculptures and painted from nude models. Cormon worked in a different studio and came in once a week to give the students instruction. The only painted study remaining from Vincent’s time at Cormon’s studio is Nude Girl, Seated, which reveals that even young children served as models.

The artist Émile Bernard recalled of Vincent:

“He would make three studies each session, getting bogged down in impastos, constantly starting all over again on new canvases, painting the model from all sides, while the pathetic students who laughed at him behind his back took eight days to make an idiotic copy of a foot.”

Another fellow student recalled:

“He was an outstanding colleague, but you had to leave him alone. As a man of the north, he disliked the Parisian esprit. The jokers in the studio avoided pulling pranks on him; they were a bit afraid to. If we were discussing ‘art’ and someone disagreed with him and took things too far, he’d let fly in a terrifying manner.”

Vincent stopped going to the lessons after about three months, he wrote:

“I have been in Cormons studio for three or four months but did not find that as useful as I had expected it to be.” Read the complete letter

Although he did not consider his time at the studio educational, it was definitely significant for his artistic career in Paris. He met numerous fellow artists there, and some of them, such as John Peter Russell, Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, became his friends.

Made here

Nude girl, seated, 1886

Nude girl, seated, 1886

Oil on canvas, 27,1 x 23,5 cm

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)

    Relevant letters from Vincent

    Continue reading

    1. Frédéric Destremau

      L’atelier Cormon (1882-1887)
      ​Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de l’art Français, 1996
    2. Louis van Tilborgh

      Van Gogh in Cormon’s studio: a chronological puzzle
      In: Current issues in 19th century art, 2007
    3. Nienke Bakker

      Van Gogh en Montmartre
      Amsterdam, 2011
    4. Françoise Cachin en Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov

      Van Gogh à Paris
      Parijs, 1988
    5. Ella Hendriks en Louis van Tilborgh

      Vincent van Gogh schilderijen, deel 2: Antwerpen en Parijs
      Amsterdam, 2011