Vincent van Gogh
(Groot-Zundert, 1853-1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)
Bridges Across the Seine at Asnières, 1887
Oil on canvas, 53.5 x 67 cm
De la Faille 301
Thanks to his brother Theo, who had set himself up in Paris as an art dealer, Vincent van Gogh came into contact with the Impressionists straight after his arrival there in spring 1886. Visiting the last joint exhibition to be held by the Impressionists, he saw works by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac for the first time. They were painted using a new technique, for which the term Pointillism had been coined. Van Gogh, like many other painters, was impressed – sufficiently so that he abandoned the dark-toned aesthetic of his previous work, done in Holland. He taught himself the technique of applying dots of paint by practicing on a series of self-portraits, before moving on to tackle larger and more complex subjects. Painted in summer 1887, the view of the Seine at Asnières with the railway bridges over the river demonstrates van Gogh's mastery of the new technique while painting in the open air, in dazzling sunlight. Reflections of the stone piers dance in the water, while dashes of white paint highlight the embankment wall and the abutment of the nearest bridge. The artist cleverly provides the composition with a focal point as if by coincidence, in the figure of a lady in a pink dress with a red parasol. Van Gogh's interest in the outskirts of Paris was shared by many of the Impressionists. This painting belongs to one of several three-part series in which he grouped his suburban landscapes. Another painting from the same series, now in Oxford, also has a red frame like the one that van Gogh gave the The Bridges at Asnières.