CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Vincent van Gogh: tekeningen, Antwerpen & Parijs, 1885-1888

Vincent van Gogh: drawings, Antwerp and Paris Exhibition: 28 September 2001 - 6 January 2002

From the museum website, 26 March 2009

This autumn the Van Gogh Museum features an exhibition of drawings made in Antwerp and Paris by Vincent van Gogh. In addition to over 120 sheets from the museum’s own collection the show includes several items on loan. Together, these provide a comprehensive survey of the artist’s work in Antwerp (November 1885 – February 1886) and Paris (February 1886 – February 1888). The show marks the publication of the third volume of the collection catalogue of Van Gogh drawings held at the museum.

Van Gogh’s depictions of city life in Antwerp and Paris range from quick sketches jotted down in the street to detailed sheets of coloured chalk or watercolour completed at home. Most of his Parisian views are of his immediate surroundings, including the mills of Montmartre, views from his window, the Boulevard de Clichy and the Paris ramparts.

In Antwerp Van Gogh took drawing lessons at the Koninklijke Academie (Royal Academy) while in Paris he worked at Fernand Cormon’s studio. Both adhered to the academic method which involved practising by drawing from life and from plaster casts of classical sculptures. Research on this copious body of drawings, on the materials, types of paper and style of drawing, has enabled a distinction to be made between drawings that originated in Antwerp and those from Paris. The sheets Van Gogh drew at Cormon’s studio are contrasted in the exhibition with drawings by a fellow student of the same period, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The show offers fascinating insights into Van Gogh’s life and work during this crucial formative period. Rare documents such as his registration slip from the Antwerp academy, textbooks used at the academy and the brief letter in which Van Gogh tells his brother Theo that he has arrived in Paris record his stay in both cities. Also displayed are some rarely-seen sketchbooks which the artist filled with studies and impressions.

Since Vincent lived with Theo while in Paris they had no need to correspond. We therefore have no record of the kind of work that the artist was involved in during this period and this makes it difficult to date the Paris drawings accurately. Nevertheless, a careful study of the materials, methods and style has enabled researchers to date some works more precisely, and occasionally quite differently.

Van Gogh, who arrived in Paris a rather old-fashioned draughtsman and painter, soon became involved in the latest artistic developments of the day. During these two seminal years he drew inspiration from a variety of sources. This exhibition highlights the first instances of his use of bright colours and post-impressionist style elements. Another aspect featured in the show is the influence of Japanese prints. Some of the drawings are shown alongside paintings from the museum collection with which they clearly have an affinity.

A close examination of the paper of these drawings has revealed that some of the sheets were originally attached to each other. The show includes a reconstruction of one of these severed sheets. Other sheets, especially the studies from life and casts at Cormon’s studio, contain drawings on both sides. A number of these are displayed so that both back and front are visible.

An interesting result of research into a coherent group of drawings is that the attribution of some of the works is called into doubt. Some drawings now no longer ascribed to Van Gogh are presented in this show and the reasons for the revised attribution are explained.

The exhibition is compiled by Marije Vellekoop (Curator of Prints and Drawings) and Sjraar van Heugten (Head of Collections). Part of the show will be presented at Hamburger Kunsthalle in the second half of 2002.

Van Gogh Museum’s drawing collection

The Van Gogh Museum has the world’s largest and most diverse collection of Van Gogh’s work on paper. The collection of over 500 drawings is presented in four sections. However, because of their sensitivity to light and climate the drawings are rarely exhibited. This opportunity to view all the artist’s work from one period is therefore unique.


Vincent van Gogh: drawings, volume 3, Antwerp & Paris 1885-1888
Marije Vellekoop and Sjraar van Heugten, assisted by Monique Hageman and Roelie Zwikker
Collection catalogue, the publication of which gave occasion to an exhibition held in 2001-02 in Amsterdam (Van Gogh Museum) and in 2002 in reduced form in Hamburg (Hamburger Kunsthalle)
320 pp., 31 cm., 124 illustrations in color and 160 in black and white
Amsterdam (Van Gogh Museum) and Blaricum (V+K Publishing)
ISBN 08 5331 7402 (hardbound)

Dutch edition: Vincent van Gogh, tekeningen, 3: Antwerpen & Parijs 1885-1888
Amsterdam (Van Gogh Museum) and Blaricum (V+K Publishing)
ISBN 90-74265-11-1 (hardbound)

Each catalogue entry comprises three parts: the technical details of the work, a catalogue text and documentation of provenance, bibliography and exhibitions. An extensive introduction provides a broad survey of the development of the artist’s drawings and various aspects of Van Gogh’s method in this period.

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