Vegetable Gardens at Montmartre

Vegetable Gardens at Montmartre

"He himself doesn’t attach much importance to this exhibition, but here, where there are so many painters, it’s essential to make himself known and the exhibition is the best means of doing it" Theo to sister Wil, March '88
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Painting Date
1st of July 1887
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It is early summer when Vincent climbs to the top of the Montmartre hill above Paris and paints a view looking north towards Clichy.  He has lived in the “city of light” for over a year and his former palette of harmonious browns has evolved with color.  His varying brushstroke direction, thickness, and shape present a marked change in his developing style and hint at his views on the future of art after impressionism.

Vincent and Theo are living in Montmartre on Rue Lepic, just down the street from where Vincent sets his easel and creates this canvas from the view he saw looking out over the suburbs north of Paris.  Now in his late 30’s, Vincent looks over produce gardens and the Seine before a distant mountain ridge and blends a more impressionist sky with a more divisionist and color-driven foreground.  He is experimenting with brushstroke variations and placement of complimentary colors in order to heighten the effect of both simultaneously.

Vincent thinks highly of this large (81 x 100 cm – Size 40 Figure) depiction and includes it along with two other Paris works for submission in the 1888 Salon des Independants.  The salons were exhibitions of canvases in halls where modern artists had their best chance of reaching a large and wealthy audience in the hope their works might be purchased.  Vincent and his contemporaries were generally excluded from these high end salons and in order to show new styles and theories in art, alternative and non-judged salons were held where Vincent, Seraut and Signac, Lautrec and Anquetin and the Pissarros could show their latest canvases, controversial as they were at the time.

Related items include a photograph taken from a similar view as Vincent’s in the summer of 1888 as well as the two other paintings Vincent and Theo selected for the 1888 salon, a companion canvas of the view looking up at the Windmills of Montmartre and the other being a brightly colored stack of novels. Vincent felt these three canvases nicely represented his work and learnings as an artist in Paris and his evolving methods to evoke emotional response in his viewing audience.

Also included as a related item is a canvas Vincent painted in the outskirts of Arles in Provence about a year later – The Harvest.  Vincent felt this canvas of a plain of farms (also from the perspective of an overlooking mountaintop) was reminiscent of the Vegetable Gardens of Montmartre and relayed that to Theo in their correspondence.  By selecting Compare Two, you can see the similarities and differences in the works while Compare One shows Vincent’s Montmartre view alongside a same-day photograph from roughly the same spot.



Vincent writes his brother as he is painting the Vegetable Gardens at Montmartre:


“My dear friend,


I thank you for your letter and for what it contained.  I feel sad that even if successful, painting won’t bring in what it costs.

I was touched by what you wrote about home – ‘they’re doing quite well, but it’s sad to see them nevertheless’. But a dozen years ago or so one would have sworn that the family would continue to prosper after all, and that things would work out well. It would please our mother greatly if your marriage came off, and for your health and business affairs you shouldn’t remain single anyway.


Myself — I feel I’m losing the desire for marriage and children, and at times I’m quite melancholy to be like that at 35 when I ought to feel quite differently. And sometimes I blame this damned painting. It was Richepin who said somewhere
‘the love of art makes us lose real love.’
I find that terribly true, but on the other hand real love puts you right off art.  And sometimes I already feel old and broken, but still sufficiently in love to stop me being enthusiastic about painting.


To succeed you have to have ambition, and ambition seems absurd to me. I don’t know what will come of it. Most of all, I’d like to be less of a burden to you — and that’s not impossible from now on. Because I hope to make progress in such a way that you’ll be able to show what I’m doing, with confidence, without compromising yourself.


And then I’m going to retreat to somewhere in the south so as not to see so many painters who repel me as men.  You can be sure of one thing, and that’s that I won’t try to do any more work for the Tambourin. I think it’s going to change hands, too, and of course I’m not against that.


As far as Miss Segatori is concerned, that’s another matter altogether, I still feel affection for her and I hope she still feels some for me.
But now she’s in an awkward position, she’s neither free nor mistress in her own house, and most of all, she’s sick and ill. Although I wouldn’t say so in public — I’m personally convinced she’s had an abortion (unless of course she had a miscarriage) — whatever the case, in her situation I wouldn’t blame her.


In two months she’ll be better, I hope, and then perhaps she’ll be grateful that I didn’t bother her.  Mind you, if she were to refuse in good health and in cold blood to give me back what’s mine, or did me any kind of harm, I wouldn’t be easy on her — but that won’t be necessary.
But I know her well enough still to trust her.  

To Theo. Paris, between about Saturday, 23 and about Monday, 25 July 1887.


Vincent writes his brother just after arriving in Arles in the south of France in early Spring of 1888:

“I’ve had a letter here from Gauguin, who says he’s been ill in bed for a fortnight. That he’s broke, since he’s had to pay off some pressing debts. That he’d like to know if you’ve sold anything for him but that he can’t write to you for fear of bothering you. That he’s under so much pressure to earn a little money he’d be determined to reduce the price of his paintings still further.

I can do nothing about this business from my end except write to Russell, which I’ll do this very day. And after all, we’ve already tried to get Tersteeg to buy one. But what can we do, he must really be hard up. I’m sending you a few lines for him in case you have something to tell him, but open letters if any come for me, because you’ll know sooner what’s in them if you do that and that will save me the trouble of telling you what’s in them. This goes once and for all.
Would you risk buying the seascape from him for the firm? If that were possible he would be out of difficulties for the time being.


Now it’s very good that you’ve taken in young Koning,I’m so glad you won’t be living alone in your apartment. In Paris one is always suffering, like a cab-horse, and if on top of that you have to live alone in your stable it would be too much.


About the Independents’ exhibition, do whatever you see fit.  What would you say to showing the two large landscapes of the Butte Montmartre there? It’s all much the same to me, I’m inclined to place slightly more hopes in this year’s work.
There’s a hard frost here, and out in the country there’s still snow — I have a study of a whitened landscape with the town in the background. And then 2 little studies of a branch of an almond tree that’s already in flower despite everything.
Enough for today, I’m writing a note to Koning.  I’m really very pleased that you’ve written to Tersteeg, and I have hopes that this will be the renewal of your relations in Holland.


With a handshake to you and to any pals you may meet.


Yours truly,




To Theo. Arles, on or about Friday, 2 March 1888


My dear Theo,


I’m writing you another line because I haven’t yet received your letter. But I presume you’ll have said to yourself that I would probably be at Saintes-Maries.


As the rent for the house and the painting of the doors and windows and the purchase of canvases have all come together and drained me dry, you’ll do me a very great service by sending me some money a few days early.


I’m working on a landscape with wheatfields which I believe is no worse than the white orchard, for example.  It’s of the same kind as the two Butte Montmartre landscapes that were in the Independents, but I think it’s more substantial and that it has a little more style.

To Theo. Arles, Tuesday, 12 or Wednesday, 13 June 1888


Painting, Oil on Canvas (81 x 100 cm – Size 40 Figure)
Paris: Summer, 1887
Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam,
The Netherlands, Europe
F: 316, JH: 1246
Where Vincent Was:

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