Walk Along the Banks of the Seine Near Asnieres

Walk Along the Banks of the Seine Near Asnieres

"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." To Theo. Paris, between about Saturday, 23 and about Monday, 25 July 1887
Currently Located:
Details:
Painting Date
1st of July 1887
Detailed Image Links
Description:

Vincent paints this light scene in the early summer of 1887 during his days along the Seine painting both sides of the river banks near Asnieres sur Seine, a suburb of Paris about 3 miles from Vincent’s Rue Lepic apartment in Montmartre.  With his easel slung across his back, he would set out in the morning and walk to the Seine near Clichy and Asnieres and work and dialogue with his friend and fellow artist, the young Emile Bernard, also from the Cormon atelier or studio or Paul Signac, a divisionist and color theorist painter coming along just after the impressionists.  Vincent’s palette of colors has expanded under the influence of the impressionists and neo impressionists with brushstrokes and color schemes also being influenced by Seurat and Signac and the pointillists.  In the Street View from Google Maps, the distant bridges on the horizon can also be matched with Vincent’s depiction of the scene over a hundred years before.

In this work, Vincent creates trees with lavender and violet trunks and varying shades of green for leaves in pointillist influenced tiny strokes with reflected light in lavender, deep blue and yellows.  The background vertical smokestacks of the factories of Clichy across the sky blue Seine are painted in a green that is duplicated in the trees and a patch or knoll of grass ahead in the path of our subject, a man walking under the trees in a straw hat of yellow.  The figure is awkward or rough in Vincent’s depiction with olive green pants and blue shirt with black shoes repeated in the shade of the path he walks upon of pale yellow horizontal strokes.  The sky completes the top half of the work and is depicted in lower left to upper right diagonal strokes of thick shades of blue with white strokes and blank canvas distributed throughout above the treeline and with white clouds of similar diagonals between the treeline and the Seine.

Brushwork in this impressionist piece is varied between dots, dashes and thick impasto diagonals and near horizontals with the blank canvas used for a reflection off the Seine of the factories of Clichy.  Signac and Vincent were probably discussing Henry’s color and line theories, a favorite along with Chevreul at the time as Signac and Seurat seek a scientific approach to painting.  Vincent’s varying angles of stroke in this painting may be an attempt to drive emotion from the direction of a brush stroke or group of brushstrokes.  The sky is uplifting from left to right while the path is lateral crosshatching woven like a rug.

Unfortunately, Vincent does not mention this painting in any of the letters he wrote while in Paris or elsewhere so we cannot know how he felt about the finished piece or exactly its date of creation.  The trees lining the lower bank of the scene in the 1885 photograph taken from a balloon may be the ones depicted in Vincent’s painting.

**************************************************************************************************

Yet the presence of buildings and factory chimneys of Clichy and Saint-Ouen in the background would indicate that this is a view from the bank of the Asniere side of the Seine looking back toward Clichy and Montmartre.  The river taking a diagonal path is similar to Monet and Sisley and Vincent admired both these impressionist masters.  His brother Theo is handling paintings of these and other impressionists at the time and making sales of them.

Though we cannot be sure, there is good argument that Vincent depicted himself here based upon the straw hat and blue painter’s smock Signac remembered Vincent working in during the spring and summer of 1887.  Vincent depicts himself in this straw hat in several self portraits during his time in Paris as well as later when he is in Arles.

Later in the summer or autumn, van Gogh in a letter to his sister Willemina said that for him Bel-Ami was the masterpiece of Guy De Maupassant and Asnieres Sur Seine descriptions in this novel have certainly had a influence on him just as the Tartar of Tarascon will enliven the countryside of Arles for Vincent a year later.  In a passage from Bel Ami, the character Duroy raves about the Seine:

“The sun, a powerful May sun, shed its light on the boats and on the quiet river seemed motionless. ”

Van Gogh might have been trying to relay these same emotions in this painting.  Asnieres was also associated with another writer for Vincent as Emile Bernard would recall in his memoirs:

“Asnieres. Although Zola-esque, he had Maupassant in his eye.”

Van Gogh a Paris by Musee D’ Orsay, 1988

**************************************************************************************************

“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.”

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

 

Painting, Oil on Canvas
Paris: June – July , 1887
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 299, JH: 1254

Where Vincent Was:
Paris

Start Discussion

Leave your email address and Vincent will write you with a painting and his thoughts...

(Don’t worry, Vincent is busy painting and doesn’t send more than one a week!)

You have Successfully Subscribed!