Portrait of Pere Tanguy
Portrait of Pere Tanguy
Musee Rodin: http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/collections/paintings/pere-tanguy
H. 92 cm ; W. 75 cm
Having said goodbye to his native Brabant and his early religious vocation, Van Gogh joined his brother Theo in Paris, in March 1886. This was where he met one of the most delightful characters in the Parisian art world of the 1880s, the man his painter friends affectionately called “Pï¾re Tanguy”. Julien-Fran§ois Tanguy (1825-94) ran a small paint supplies shop, on the Rue Clauzel, and often accepted paintings in exchange for the goods he sold.
Van Gogh painted three portraits of Pre Tanguy, whose friendship he valued enormously. In this work, with which the shopkeeper never parted, the pure colours, the use of contrasting complementary colours, the visible, well-positioned brushwork and the flat picture space are all features of a Neo-Impressionist style that the artist used very freely. He chose to represent the old man in a strictly frontal pose, immobile, lost in thought, with his hands clasped over his stomach, and succeeded in capturing all the sitter’s kindness and modesty. Van Gogh paid homage to the “colour grinder” by turning him into a sort of Japanese sage, placed against a background filled with some of the countless brightly coloured Japanese prints that the painter and his brother Theo collected.
From 1887, Rodin could also admire the writer Edmond de Goncourt’s Japanese prints. The sculptor himself built up a private collection of prints, comparable to those of Monet and Van Gogh. Did Rodin purchase this major work of art in 1894 because he and Van Gogh shared a love of Japanese art? In any case, the sculptor bought two other important paintings of his and frequently spoke of his admiration for Vincent Van Gogh, whom he regarded as “an admirable demolisher of academic formulae, [who] also had a genius for light,” (Rodin, 1909).
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Portrait of Pre Tanguy, painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1887, is one of his three paintings of Julien Tanguy. The three works demonstrate a progression in Van Gogh’s artistic style after his arrival in Paris. The first is somber, and formed from a simple composition. This second introduces Van Gogh’s Japanese prints in the fall of 1887. The last and most advanced in style, skill and color integrates Japanese, Impressionist, and other influences on the Parisian artist community is painted in the winter of 1887. This painting conveys a sense of serenity that Van Gogh seeks for himself. This last painting of Tanguy is in the Mus©e Rodin, Paris.
Although Van Gogh had been influenced by great masters in the Netherlands, coming to Paris meant that he was exposed to Impressionists, Symbolists, Pointillists, and Japanese art (see Japonism). His circle of friends included Camille Pissarro, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, ‰mile Bernard, Paul Signac, and others. The works of the Japanese printmakers Hiroshige and Hokusai greatly influenced Van Gogh, both for the subject matter and the style of flat patterns of colors without shadow. In the two years from 1886 through 1888 he spent working in Paris, Van Gogh explored the various genres, creating his own unique style.
The brightly colored painting and confident subject represent a shift in Vincent’s attitude. Van Gogh called his use of bright colors “gymnastics” that through experimentation created great depth, harmony and balance in his work. The painting contains a background of Van Gogh’s Japanese prints that were sold at Tanguy’s shop. On top of Tanguy’s hat is Mount Fuji; Kabuki actors share the wall with cherry trees in bloom.
The Japanese paintings represent Van Gogh’s search for serenity, which he describes in a letter to his sister during this period, “Having as much of this serenity as possible, even though one knows little — nothing — for certain, is perhaps a better remedy for all diseases than all the things that are sold at the chemist’s shop.” In an effort to capture serenity in his painting, Van Gogh paints Tanguy with a calm, contemplative nature. Historian of Symbolism Naomi Maurer describes him as having the “iconic tranquility of Buddha.”
Van Gogh died in 1890, Tanguy died four years after. Following Tanguy’s death, his daughter sold the Portrait of Pre Tanguy to sculptor Auguste Rodin. The Portrait of Pre Tanguy, previously in Rodin’s personal collection, is in the permanent collection at Mus©e Rodin in Paris.
Julien Fran§ois Tanguy (1825 Pl©dran – 1894 Paris) was a paint grinder, he sold art supplies and was also an art dealer, one of the first to offer Van Gogh’s paintings for sale. His jovial demeanor and enthusiasm for artistry and artists made his shop one of the most favored art supply shops in Paris, and he was nicknamed Pre (“Father”) Tanguy. Maurer calls Tanguy a father figure who shared his food and money with artists and showed their paintings with pride.
Tanguy took paintings as payment for paints, which ‰mile Bernard said made entering his shop in Montmartre, full of Impressionist paintings, like “visiting a museum”. In comparison to her husband, Tanguy’s wife was less cooperative and more concerned with clientele paying outstanding charges. When Tanguy died, his friends staged an auction for his widow.
Octave Mirbeau wrote a notice about him in L’‰cho de Paris on 13 February 1894.
Three Portraits of Julien Tanguy
Van Gogh painted three portraits of Julien (Pre) Tanguy.
Portrait of Pre Tanguy, winter 1886/87. (47×38.5cm) (F263)
In winter 1886/87 van Gogh painted his first portrait of Tanguy. It is mostly brown, with a touch of red on his lips and a green on his apron. Writer Victoria Finlay describes him as looking more like a workman than an art dealer.
Portrait of Pre Tanguy, The second painting of Pre Tanguy by Vincent van Gogh (65 cm x 51 cm) (F364)
In 1887, van Gogh began to experiment with brighter colors, such as red against green and orange against blue. The other two paintings show him sitting in front of a colorful wall of Japanese prints. The second to the right was painted by van Gogh in one thirty-minute sitting, and Tanguy kept the original version of the painting. Actor Edward G. Robinson and his wife Gladys Lloyd Robinson, a painter, owned the painting, which they sold to Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos.
The second, more advanced painting with Japanese prints, done in the winter of 1887 is held in the Mus©e Rodin in Paris.
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Paris: Autumn, 1887
Paris, France, Europe
F: 363, JH: 1351