The Van Gogh Museum concludes its 50th anniversary year with Van Gogh Along the Seine. This pioneering exhibition explores how the area along the Seine near Asnières, to the north-west of Paris, was crucial to the artistic development of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries: Paul Signac, Georges Seurat, Emile Bernard and Charles Angrand. The exhibition is a collaboration with The Art Institute of Chicago.  

Nature and industry 

In the nineteenth century, Parisians were increasingly drawn to leisure activities along the Seine. New train stations and bridges made the suburbs of Paris more accessible, and along with that more popular. And yet factories and their smoking chimneys were steadily gaining dominance on the horizon. Between 1881 and 1890, five ambitious artists – Van Gogh, Seurat, Signac, Bernard and Angrand – walked to the banks of the Seine to paint. With their easel positioned amongst the greenery, they captured the radical contrasts that characterised the area, from day trippers enjoying various water sports to the burgeoning industry. They found new, modern motifs, and developed their use of colour and painting techniques.

Vincent van Gogh, Bridges Across the Seine at Asnières, 1887,  Oil on canvas, 53.5×67 cm Emil Bührle Collection, on long-term loan at the Kunsthaus Zürich

Exhibited together for the first time

The works that Van Gogh made in the area around Asnières have been studied as a separate group for the first time, and compared with the work of four contemporaries who worked at the same locations. The exhibition unites 75 works, many of which have never before been on display at the Van Gogh Museum, or even in the Netherlands. Highlights are Van Gogh’s Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy (Asnières) (1887), Oil Sketch for “La Grande Jatte”’ (1883) by Georges Seurat and Two Women on the Asnières Footbridge (1887) by Emile Bernard.

In a letter to one of his sisters in late autumn 1887, Van Gogh made a revealing comment about his time painting outside of Paris: ‘And when I painted landscape in Asnières this summer I saw more colour in it than before’. Asnières inspired all five artists to refresh their use of colour and their painting technique. By leaving the city and heading into the suburbs they were able to add a new impulse to painting of their time.

Van Gogh Along the Seine will be on display from 13 October 2023 to 14 January 2024.