Van Gogh Museum acquires painting of Maurice de Vlaminck

12 March 2008

The Van Gogh Museum has recently enriched its collection with The Seine at Nanterre by Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958). Its acquisition forms a worthy addition to the Van Gogh Museum collection and it means that the Dutch public art collection now numbers three works by this artist. The Seine at Nanterre was purchased with the support of the BankGiro Lottery (around half of the purchase price), the Mondriaan Foundation, the Rembrandt Association (supported by Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds) and the VSB Foundation.

The painting is a good example of Vincent van Gogh’s influence on later painters, in this case the Fauvist school of the early 20th century. De Vlaminck was an admirer and follower of Van Gogh. In addition to the works by Van Gogh, the museum holds paintings by the (post) Impressionists who were a direct inspiration for De Vlaminck in terms of theme and composition as well as in his choice of palette and painting style. Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), The Seine at Nanterre, 1907, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, © c/o Beeldrecht Amsterdam 2008

The artist and his work
In 1906 and 1907 Maurice de Vlaminck painted a large number of canvases which took as their subject the country life around his home in Chatou near Paris. He tried to convey on canvas the feelings of simplicity, peace and seclusion that he associated with the villages surrounding the capital. An autodidact, he painted without a system but with the legacy of the Post-Impressionists very much in mind. Due to his fast, fluid and relaxed way of working, De Vlaminck's works show a great stylistic disparity. Even within one and the same painting De Vlaminck often used a variety of painting styles, thereby subordinating harmony and unity. A number of De Vlaminck's works from this period are easy and spontaneous in character, such as The Seine at Nanterre. Other canvases are more carefully finished and consequently more conventional and less striking. 

The Seine at Nanterre
De Vlaminck painted The Seine at Nanterre around 1907. Nanterre was a small industrial village on the Seine, just outside Paris. While he adheres to the figurative tradition, in this work De Vlaminck imbues the landscape with fresh energy through a dynamic composition, a pure use of colour and pronounced -- almost tangible -- brushstrokes. The horizontal composition is enlivened by the two vessels positioned diagonally in the foreground of the painting, and by a strong vertical element: the chimney stack on one of the boats. The robust physical approach in which the mechanics of painting commands attention is typical of the Fauves. The vivid use of primary colour -- even in the planes of shadow -- together with the implementation of complementary contrasts and the almost schematic rendition of the scene all fit with De Vlaminck's efforts to achieve a 'purification' of the landscape.

De Fauves
The group of artists of which De Vlaminck formed a part and who called themselves the Fauves were united by mutual friendships and a shared quest for a modern style. Artists such as Maurice De Vlaminck, Henri Matisse, Kees van Dongen and André Derain were largely inspired by the Postimpressionists Seurat, Signac, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne but felt a  need to take their artistic achievements a step further. At the core of Fauvism lay the act of painting itself, the physical characteristics of the canvas and the paint, and it was in these aspects that their innovations were manifest. They simplified their landscapes to a great degree and by so doing their art opened the way for the later abstractions within Modernism.

This painting is on display on the third floor of the Rietveld building..

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