The Pont du Carrousel and the Louvre

The Pont du Carrousel and the Louvre

"My dear Theo, Don’t be cross with me that I’ve come all of a sudden. I’ve thought about it so much and I think we’ll save time this way. Will be at the Louvre from midday, or earlier if you like. A reply, please, to let me know when you could come to the Salle Carrée." To Theo van Gogh. Paris, on or about Sunday, 28 February 1886
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Painting Date
15th of June 1886
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Vincent has been living in Paris after his unannounced arrival about three months prior when he paints this canvas in June of 1886.  It is a view of the Pont du Carrousel bridge, built from 1831 to 1834, crossing the Seine with the Louvre museum in the background.  The landscape scene was painted from the quay at what is now Port Des Saints Peres in central Paris.  It is more impressionist in its light strokes and color palette and Vincent’s passion for Japanese art is honored well in this work.

Vincent paints figures walking along the bridge and others in the foreground embarking on a boat. There is a a woman in red with a red parasol on the boat closest to Vincent’s view – similar to a lady with a red parasol in the Jardin du Luxembourg painting done in the same few weeks of Spring turning to Summer in Paris in 1886.  Vincent will paint women from a distance with a parasol as he has seen in Hokusai and Hiroshige and Eisen woodblock prints he and his brother are collecting from Bing’s, an art dealer in Paris with an attic full of Japanese crepe paper prints Vincent adores.

Vincents applies blues and greens in the Seine and repeats the blue at the front of the boat in one of the figures approaching the gangplank to board.  Vincent uses thicker applications of white for clouds in a hazy Parisien blue skied afternoon. Vincent’s palette is still more reserved and northern in its color selection with harmonic browns comprising the bridge and buildings of the louvre in the distance.  It is notable as the only painting he did in a very popular part of Paris, the city center and near the Ille de la Cite.  Vincent always preferred the countryside or suburbs and small villages as scenery for him to depict.  His love for the Louvre and the works of his masters and hero’s it contained may have driven him to capture it from the south shore of the Seine in this early work of Vincent’s Paris in June of 1886.

The related and comparison imagery are photos and earlier works of art capturing the view from a similar location as Vincent’s easel when he painted the Pont du Carrousel.  The street view from modern day also is from a different but recognizable perspective as well. He has seen the impressionist paintings on exhibition in Paris over the past few months and has met Guillamin and Lautrec at the Cormon atelier where he is studying art along with several other soon to be prominent post impressionist artists.  Soon he will meet Bernard, Seurat and paint with Signac along the Seine around Clichy and Asnieres.  His palette will lighten and he will paint flower arrangements over the summer and play with complimentary colors and the unique effect they have when placed close to each other on a canvas and then seen by the human eye.  He will also experiment with various brushstroke widths, shapes and directions and apply paint from tubes in varying thicknesses to create depth and emotion.  This painting is one of the last he will do before his canvases erupt in color and it will end up in the shop of Pere Tanguy, a friend of Theo’s and a supplier of paint and painting supplies in Paris.

The Louvre was built about 1200 as a fortress. In the 14th century it was expanded to become a residence for Charles the Fifth.  The old fortress walls were removed in the 16th century  and replaced by a Renaissance palace which kept growing over time. It is now one of the world’s most voluminous and important museums, containing masterpieces collected by the kings of France in its beginning and many more added to the collection since.



“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 literature 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.”

Vincent To Horace Mann Livens, Paris, September or October 1886


“If I was in the Louvre with you, I’d really like to see the primitives with you. In the Louvre, I still return with great love to the Dutch, Rembrandt first and foremost — Rembrandt whom I once studied so thoroughly — then, for example — who makes — on a no. 4 or no. 6 panel, a white stallion alone in a meadow, a stallion neighing, and with a hard-on — forlorn under a sky brewing up a thunderstorm – heartbroken in the tender green immensity of a wet meadow”
Vincent to Emile Bernard, June 6, 1888


Painting, Oil on Canvas – 38 x 46 cm Size 8 figure
Paris: June, 1886
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

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F: 221, JH: 1109

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