Le Moulin de la Galette

Le Moulin de la Galette

"I did a dozen landscapes too, frankly green, frankly blue.  And so I am struggling for life and progress in art...."
Details:
Painting Date
1st of October 1886
Detailed Image Links
Description:

Vincent has been in the city of light for about six months when he paints this view of one of the surviving windmills on the hill atop Montmartre, this one famous for the bread made from the wheat it grinds.  His brother and now roommate, Theo, is working for one of the most powerful art dealers in Paris, Goupil, and this helps Vincent’s eccentric and argumentative manner to be overlooked by the young artists he has met at Cormon’s atelier.  Vincent carouses at night in the taverns and dance halls of Montmartre and argues modern art over absynthe and wine with fellow students Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Emile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, Armand Guillamin and the Pissarros, Camille and Lucien.

Vincent’s palette has brightened from the more traditional northern harmonious browns to vibrant color combinations he is convinced are the path forward to modern art.  The color theories of Charles Le Blanc are being used by the divisionists Seurat and Signac and their close and precise placement of dots of paint have Vincent further convinced they are on the right path.  He begins to pay careful attention to complimentary color combinations placed in close proximity on the canvas for their mutually enhancing effect (blue-orange, red-green, yellow-purple). He experiments with their impact on the viewer visually and, more important, emotionally and will do so for the rest of his short career.

In this canvas, Vincent paints the Moulin de la Galette from below with its observation platform facing Paris on the right (south) under bright clouds and light blue skies.  He uses thick brushstrokes of rich and varied greens, a technique he admires of one his painting heroes, Monticelli.  Vincent’s sky fills over half of his canvas with blue and white and gray textures which dwarf the tiny subjects enjoying the view.  Vincent dashes in a small cascade of reds from upper middle left to lower right – from the Tri-color flag on top of the windmill to the parasol and clothing of the observers and finally his signature at lower right.  He is beginning to forge his own style of expression and is leaving the teachings of the impressionists who work to depict the colors of the subjects and views they select in favor of enhancing color and driving emotions.

 

Related images include another canvas of a similar view of the windmill and a canvas of the gardens of produce on the hilltop Vincent created (capturing the view looking the opposite way of the viewing platform of the Mouline de la Gallette).  Also included is a portrait created by a fellow student from Cormon, the talented and gregarious John Peter Russell, who captured Vincent’s oft-described challenging and intense gaze in the summer of 1886…

The Compare images are canvases Vincent created alongside photographs from Montmartre in the same decade.

A glimpse into Vincent’s outlook and disposition after six months in Paris can be had from a postscript in a letter he wrote that same late summer to Horace Mann Livens, an artist he befriended in art school in Antwerp:

“What regards my chances of sale, look here, they are certainly not much but still I do have a beginning.
At this present moment I have found four dealers who have exhibited studies of mine.  And I have exchanged studies with several artists.
Now the prices are 50 francs. Certainly not much but – as far as I can see one must sell cheap to rise, and even at costing price. And mind my dear fellow, Paris is Paris, there is but one Paris and however hard living may be here and if it became worse and harder even – the french air clears up the brain and does one good – a world of good.
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.  It may be my fault however, any how I left there too as I left Antwerp and since I worked alone, and fancy that since I feel my own self more. 
Trade is slow here, the great dealers sell MilletDelacroixCorotDaubignyDupré, a few other masters at exorbitant prices. They do little or nothing for young artists. The second class dealers contrariwise sell those but at very low prices. If I asked more I would do nothing, I fancy. However I have faith in colour, even what regards the price the public will pay for it in the longer run.
But for the present things are awfully hard, therefore let anyone who risks to go over here consider there is no laying on roses at all.
What is to be gained is progress and, what the deuce, that it is to be found here I dare ascertain. Anyone who has a solid position elsewhere, let him stay where he is but for adventurers as myself I think they lose nothing in risking more. Especially as in my case I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate and feeling nowhere so much myself a stranger as in my family and country.
Kindly remember me to your landlady Mrs Roosmaelen and say her that if she will exhibit something of my work I will send her a small picture of mine.”

 

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My dear Mr Livens,
Since I am here in Paris I have very often thought of your self and work. You will remember that I liked your colour, your ideas on art and litterature and I add, most of all, your personality.
I have already before now thought that I ought to let you know what I was doing, where I was.  But what refrained me was that I find living in Paris is much dearer than in Antwerp and not knowing what your circumstances are I dare not say Come over to Paris, without warning you that it costs one dearer than Antwerp and that if poor, one has to suffer many things. As you may imagine. But on the other hand there is more chance of selling.
There is also a good chance of exchanging pictures with other artists.  In one word, with much energy, with a sincere personal feeling of colour in nature I would say an artist can get on here notwithstanding the many obstructions. And I intend remaining here still longer. 
There is much to be seen here – for instance Delacroix to name only one master.  In Antwerp I did not even know what the Impressionists were, now I have seen them and though not being one of the club, yet I have much admired certain Impressionist pictures – degas, nude figure – Claude Monet, landscape.
And now for what regards what I myself have been doing, I have lacked money for paying models, else I had entirely given myself to figure painting but I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and myosotys. White and rose roses, yellow chrysantemums – seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet, seeking THE BROKEN AND NEUTRAL TONES to harmonise brutal extremes.  
Trying to render intense COLOUR and not a grey harmony.
Now after these gymnastics I lately did two heads which I dare say are better in light and colour than those I did before.  So as we said at the time in COLOUR seeking life, the true drawing is modelling with colour.  I did a dozen landscapes too, frankly green, frankly blue.  And so I am struggling for life and progress in art.
Now I would very much like to know what you are doing and whether you ever think of going to Paris.  If ever you did come here, write to me before and I will, if you like, share my lodgings and studio with you so long as I have any. In spring – say February or even sooner – I may be going to the south of France, the land of the blue tones and gay colours.  
And look here, if I knew you had longings for the same we might combine. I felt sure at the time that you are a thorough colourist and since I saw the Impressionists I assure you that neither your colour nor mine as it is developing itself, is exactly the same as their theories but so much dare I say, we have a chance and a good one of finding friends.
I hope your health is all right. I was rather low down in health when in Antwerp but got better here.
Write to me, in any case remember me to AllanBriëtRinkDurand, but I have not so often thought on any of them as I did think of you – almost daily.
Shaking hands cordially.

 

Yours truly,
Vincent

 

My present address is

 

Mr Vincent van Gogh
54 Rue Lepic
Paris

To Horace Mann Livens, Paris, September or October 1886

 

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54 rue Lepic

 

Dear Sir,
I’ve spoken to Mr Boggs about the meeting I had with you and if you would like to do an exchange with him be bold about it, because you’ll see fine things at his place and he’ll be very pleased to make your acquaintance.
I also propose myself for an exchange. I happen to have 2 views of the Moulin de la Galette that I could spare.
Hoping to see you one of these days, then, I shake your hand.

 

Yours truly,
Vincent

 

Do go and see my brother too (Goupil & Cie, 19 boulevard Montmartre), he has a very fine Degas at the moment. At Tanguy’s I had another look at your young girl with hens, that’s just the study I’d like to exchange with you. Enclosed, one of my brother’s cards, if you didn’t find him there you could always go up and look at the paintings.

To Charles Angrand. Paris, Monday, 25 October 1886

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Painting, Oil on Canvas
Paris: Summer, 1886
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Glasgow, Scotland, Europe
F: 274, JH: 1115

Where Vincent Was:
Paris

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