Colleagues

The list is long of artists whom Armand Guillaumin befriended, and with whom he worked and exhibited. Notably, he was, from the outset, a member of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs, etc (soon to be dubbed Impressionnistes), especially close to Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. But he was also a friend and compatriot of others like Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac, Georges Seurat and Vincent van Gogh. On this page, each of these relationships will be explored.

Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Bazille, Degas

From top left, clockwise: Monet, Bazille, Sisley, Renoir

The future Impressionists with whom Guillaumin first connected were Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro, in 1861. Pissarro introduced Guillaumin to Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille and Edgar Degas a few years later, after they and other artists had formed a group around Édouard Manet and were to be found at regular Thursday evening gatherings at the Café Guerbois in Montmartre. Because he was poor and worked nights, Guillaumin rarely attended, but he got to know these men over the next few years (though Bazille died in 1870), and in 1873, when the time came to form an exhibiting society, he was invited to join. A few years later, when times were tough and money was scarce, Guillaumin introduced them (except for Degas, who was wealthy) to his childhood friend, Eugène Murer, by then a successful restauranteur. Wednesday evening gatherings were held at Murer’s establishment beginning in 1877 with Guillaumin, Renoir and Sisley the most frequent guests. Monet, Pissarro and Cézanne joined them occasionally. Murer offered much-appreciated meals in exchange for paintings; he also made purchases from all and provided financial assistance to Pissarro and Sisley. Relations were not always warm between Guillaumin and Renoir, however. Renoir was concerned that the patronage of wealthy benefactors that he craved could be compromised by his association with Guillaumin, a committed socialist. Renoir wrote to Durand-Ruel in 1882: “To exhibit with Pissarro, Gauguin, Guillaumin, is as if I were to exhibit with no matter what social group.” He added that he was adamant about continuing to exhibit at the Salon to “dispel the revolutionary taint which frightens me… Since I exhibit with Guillaumin, I may as well exhibit with Carolus-Duran [a popular Salon painter]”. After 1882, the last time Monet, Renoir and Sisley would show with the group, Guillaumin likely saw little of them again. As for Degas, they were never close and on the closing night of the final group exhibition, Guillaumin departed the venue with Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat just before Degas was due to rendezvous with them.

Paul Cézanne

Self Portrait, circa 1875. Orsay Museum, Paris (painted in Guillaumin’s studio)

Guillaumin and Cézanne met in 1861 at the Académie Suisse, where each regularly dropped by to draw from the model. Among the other students, Cézanne was seen as an oddball, both for his drawing and his uncouth behavior. Guillaumin, however, felt otherwise and they formed a close friendship, one that lasted for two decades. Daringly, they both submitted works to the Salon of 1863 but were rejected, resulting in their paintings being hung in the infamous Salon des Refusés. Nevertheless, Guillaumin thought highly of his friend’s artistic abilities and in 1866 remarked that he believed Cézanne was superior to Manet.

Paul Cézanne, Guillaumin by the Road, 1866. Private Collection

In 1872 , Cézanne moved to Pontoise, a small town thirty kilometers from Paris, where he worked closely with Camille Pissarro. Guillaumin, on his four-day weekends, joined them frequently. From late 1872 until mid-1874, Cézanne lived in the nearby village of Auvers-sur-Oise and with Guillaumin spent a great deal of time with Dr. Paul Gachet, who, among other things, was an art collector and amateur engraver.

Paul Cézanne, The House of Dr. Gachet at Auvers, 1873. Orsay Museum, Paris

In Gachet’s home, Cézanne and Guillaumin painted still lifes of flowers picked by the doctor’s wife and made etchings, the only ones Cezanne ever did. One is a portrait of Guillaumin. At Guillaumin’s urging, Cézanne tried his hand at pastel as well.

Paul Cézanne, Guillaumin Thinking, 1873.

Guillaumin made several etchings, too, one of which, shown below, depicts Cézanne on the left, Guillaumin on the right.

Armand Guillaumin, Three Men Seated, circa 1873

Guillaumin and Cézanne continued to see Dr. Gachet in Auvers and in Paris and to exchange letters with him for the next several years. In July 1876, Guillaumin wrote to Gachet: “Cézanne has been back for 3 or 4 days. I told him of your wishes for him; he will go see you, maybe we will go together.” He went on to invite Gachet to dinner with a special guest: “If you were here on Monday, the day after tomorrow, Cézanne’s father told me that he would come at 6 o’clock to see my mother, and he will have dinner with us.” Then in October, the three were supposed to meet when Cézanne became ill with a terrible headache . Cézanne wrote to Gachet: “Guillaumin, whom you will see this evening, and with whom I was yesterday in Issy, will be able to tell you about my attack.”

When the first exhibition of the Impressionists opened on April 15, 1874, Cézanne and Guillaumin were represented by three paintings each, some of which were loaned by Dr. Gachet. The catalogue lists the same studio address for the two men.

Between 1875 and 1879, and off and on from 1880 to 1890, Cézanne had his Parisian studio at 15 Quai d’Anjou on the Île SaintLouis, which was next door to Guillaumin’s at number 13. They were close friends and comrades who wouldn’t hesitate to step next door to commiserate, discuss art, or head off to paint in each other’s company. The Cézanne self-portrait near the top of this page was done in Guillaumin’s studio as Cézanne stood before a mirror with Guillaumin’s 1871 painting, La Seine à Paris, in the background, seen in reverse. In the canvas below, the same landscape appears on the wall, upper right, as does one of Cézanne’s early portraits of his future wife, seen on the floor to the left of Dr. Martinez.

Armand Guillaumin, Dr. Martinez in the studio of the painter, 1878. Private Collection

Until 1880, Cézanne and Guillaumin often worked together along the Paris quays, in the nearby suburb of Issy-les-Moulineux, as well as in the countryside of the Île-de-France. There exist several canvases done when they set up their easels side by side.

Armand Guillaumin, The Turning Road, circa 1877. Private Collection
Paul Cézanne, The Turning Road, circa 1877. Private Collection

Neither artist participated in the Impressionist exhibition in 1876, however, Guillaumin informed his friend that it had gone well and that Cézanne would be invited to join the group in future. Cézanne reported to his parents: “According to what Guillaumin told me, I am one of three new members who will be admitted to the association; Monet defended me warmly…” And so, in 1877, the two friends again exhibited with the other Impressionists; this time Cézanne showed seventeen works, Guillaumin twelve. It was Cézanne’s last appearance in a show with the group. After 1880, he spent more and more time in Provence, the land of his youth, where he could work in solitude, refine his vision and move beyond impressionism. He hung onto his studio on the Quai d’Anjou yet seems to rarely have used it. The two men kept in touch through letters, though they seem to have stopped meeting other than for a single visit by Guillaumin to Aix-en-Provence in the mid-1890s. However, Guillaumin never ceased believing in his friend’s genius, and in 1895, strongly urged the novice dealer, Ambroise Vollard, to purchase Cézanne’s work and to devote a large solo exhibition to his former comrade. Cézanne died in Aix-en-Provence in 1906.

Camille Pissarro

Armand Guillaumin, Pissarro Painting Blinds, circa 1868. Museum of Fine Art, Limoges

As in the case of Cézanne, Guillaumin met Pissarro at the Académie Suisse around 1861. Eleven years older, Pissarro, a generous and humble man, acted as a teacher and mentor to Guillaumin, encouraging the younger artist to paint en plein air in the countryside near Paris. In the 1860s, they had a shared interest in the rivers, barges and factories of the Île-de-France and these appear as subject matter in both artists’ paintings. In 1868, the two men were in such great need of funds that they accepted a job painting blinds.

Camille Pissarro, Environs of Pontoise, 1872. Private Collection

Beginning in 1872, when Pissarro moved to Pontoise, Guillaumin was a regular visitor. Pissarro wrote to a friend: ” Guillaumin has just spent several days at our house; he works at painting in the daytime and his ditch-digging in the evening. What courage!” In the summer of 1874, when Pissarro was discouraged and had begun to doubt himself, Guillaumin sent him letters of encouragement: “I saw one of your pictures which is a truly beautiful thing. You say that you are not doing anything worthwhile. I don’t believe it after what I saw.” And he added: “Try not to be disheartened. Better days are ahead.” Their close friendship and mutual respect were sources of strength in the lean years before signs of success became apparent.

In 1877, Guillaumin introduced Pissarro to his childhood friend, Eugène Murer, who became an important collector of impressionist works and a crucial financial supporter of Pissarro in particular. Murer, a restaurant owner, also hosted much-appreciated weekly dinners for the neediest artists. Pissarro, in turn, introduced Guillaumin to Paul Gauguin, initially a collector of impressionist art, later, a fellow traveller. Pissarro also facilitated Guillaumin’s (and Cézanne’s) membership in an artistic grouping called L’Union, with which they remained for two years before resigning prior to its inaugural exhibition.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888. Dallas Museum of Art

In the mid-1880s, with the Impressionist group splintering, Pissarro was again dissatisfied with his work; Guillaumin was associating with younger artists, who had devised a new system of applying paint to canvas, soon to be coined neo-impressionism. At Guillaumin’s studio, Pissarro met Paul Signac and soon after, at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, he was introduced by Guillaumin to Georges Seurat. Pissarro then began to employ their pointillist method, one he would practice for five years. Although Guillaumin thought this new way of applying paint was interesting, he was not inclined to adopt it.

While Pissarro’s and Guillaumin’s artistic paths had diverged, they remained friends, meeting at dinners and in cafes through the 1890s until Pissarro’s death in 1903.

Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, Self Portrait, 1885. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

It was Pissarro who introduced Guillaumin to Paul Gauguin around 1876. Over the next several years, Gauguin evolved from being primarily a collector of impressionist paintings (he owned fifteen including two by Guillaumin) to an artist in his own right under the tutelage of Pissarro. The latter was still living in Pontoise, and was joined often by Gauguin, occasionally in the company of Cézanne or Guillaumin. Gauguin first showed with the Impressionists in 1879, and in 1881, Guillaumin exhibited a painting lent by Gauguin, Le pont Marie, quai Sully.

Armand Guillaumin, Le pont Marie, quai Sully, circa 1878. Private Collection

By 1882, Gauguin had become comfortable enough in his position within the group of Impressionists that in a letter to Pissarro he argued against the inclusion of Degas and his followers and wrote, “I believe Guillaumin feels the same way, but I do not wish in any way to influence his decision.” This statement reflects the fact that Gauguin and Guillaumin were, at that time, closely aligned in their views on art, a result of the countless discussions they’d had in cafes and studios over the preceding years. Even though Gauguin was frequently away from Paris in the latter half of the 1880s, he kept in touch and was always keen to know that his friend was keeping well. He once wrote to Pissarro to ensure that Guillaumin was being included in the monthly Impressionist dinners, arguing that Guillaumin was owed a place among them.

In 1884, when Guillaumin became a member of the Groupe des Artistes Indépendants, soon re-constituted as the Société des Artistes Indépendants, he urged Gauguin to join, which Gauguin considered before changing his mind. Regardless, they remained in close contact and continued to meet regularly through 1886 and 1887 when Gauguin was in Paris. In 1888, with the Impressionist group disbanded, Guillaumin was in close contact with Gauguin and his new Symbolist group of painters. It was at this time that a mutual friend, Vincent van Gogh, was setting up a studio in Arles in the south of France and Guillaumin, along with Pissarro, encouraged Gauguin to join Vincent, which he did for a tumultuous nine weeks. The self-portrait below was painted in Arles and exchanged for one by Vincent.

Paul Gauguin, Self Portrait, 1888. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

In November of 1888, while Gauguin was still in Arles, Guillaumin wrote to him confessing how hard up he was and how confined he felt after the birth of his first child in October. He was also considering exhibiting with the Indépendants. Gauguin wrote back commiserating while pointing out he had five children of his own to support. Gauguin then wrote to a mutual friend, reporting: “Guillaumin has written me a distressing letter; he tells me about his wish to exhibit with the Indépendants this year.”

March of 1889 saw the Symbolists stage their first exhibition at the Cafe Volpini and Gauguin invited Guillaumin to participate; however, as Pissarro and another friend, Georges Seurat, were not invited, Guillaumin declined.

In April 1890, Gauguin wrote to Vincent van Gogh, complimenting him on his recent work and singling out a painting of a “mountainous landscape”, roundly admired, and for which he wanted to exchange a work of his own. He then complained, “Only Guillaumin shrugs his shoulders when he hears it mentioned. I do understand him, by the way, since all he sees is pigment with an eye devoid of thought. Towards my own canvases of the last few years he reacts the same way: he understands nothing.” Guillaumin’s and Gauguin’s approaches to painting and views on art were most definitely diverging; however, Guillaumin saw more than he let on. He had his eye on the same “mountainous landscape” and he too had proposed an exchange for it with Vincent.

In April 1891, Paul Gauguin set sail for Tahiti, briefly returning to France from late 1893 to 1895. He died in French Polynesia in 1903.

Paul Signac

Paul Signac circa 1883

Armand Guillaumin once claimed that he had neither followers nor students; however, it’s known that Paul Signac was mentored by Guillaumin in 1883 and 1884. They met when Signac was actively seeking counsel from an Impressionist master. He worked at Guillaumin’s side along the quays in Paris, following his example, and producing colourful works of great power.

Paul Signac, Le pont Louis-Philippe, 1884. Private Collection

Both men joined the nascent Groupe des Artistes Indépendants in early 1884, and exhibited with them in May and again in December under the re-named Société des Artistes Indépendants. It was at the exhibition in the spring that they encountered an impressive, large canvas of bathers by an unknown painter named Georges Seurat, with whom they formed fast friendships. Guillaumin introduced Pissarro to Signac in the summer of 1884 and to Seurat in October. The latter three would soon make up the core of a group employing a new approach to painting later known as pointillism or neo-impressionism. Signac and Seurat became frequent visitors to Guillaumin’s studio from 1884 to 1890, where, along with Pissarro and his son, Lucien, they discussed theories of art, sharing and absorbing ideas in a collegial atmosphere.

Paul Signac, The Railway at Bois Colombes, 1886. Present location unknown

At the insistence of Guillaumin and Pissarro, Signac (along with Seurat) was admitted to the final Impressionist exhibition in May of 1886. In June of that year, Guillaumin and Paul Gauguin were planning to join Signac and Seurat and exhibit with the Indépendants in August, but in the end they declined, likely because of Gauguin’s low opinion of the “little green chemists who pile up tiny dots”. Nevertheless, Guillaumin joined Pissarro, Signac and Seurat in exhibiting in October in Nantes. By that year, Gauguin had become a divisive figure in the Impressionist group; he got into a dispute over the use of Signac’s studio and temporarily caused d a rift to develop between Guillaumin and Signac. Still, the two men remained friends and continued to meet as before and to develop along their divergent artistic paths.

It was while strolling on the Seine quays in Paris with Signac that Guillaumin saw Paul Cézanne for the final time in the capital. As John Rewald explains: “Ready to greet him, they saw him [Cézanne] making gestures, begging them to pass him by; amazed and deeply moved, Guillaumin and Signac crossed the street and went on in silence.” While Cézanne no longer wished to commune with his former colleagues, Guillaumin was forming new friendships and had taken on the role of an elder statesman among the young artists who were now at the forefront of modern art.

Georges Seurat

Inextricably linked to Paul Signac, Georges Seurat was an innovator who pushed art beyond the boundaries of impressionism by adapting scientific theories of colour to the act of painting. Although he may seem an unlikely character to befriend a “Romantic Impressionist” like Armand Guillaumin, he found in the older man an artist whose own daring use of colour and openness to new ideas made him a natural ally. As mentioned above, Seurat became acquainted with Guillaumin at the Indépendants and exhibited in the final Impressionist exhibition in May of 1886, where he stole the show with his newest massive canvas, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, one he’d worked on for close to two years. On the closing evening of the show, Paul Gauguin’s disruptive influence was felt once again when he convinced Guillaumin and Seurat to abandon Degas (who was supposed to meet them there) and instead attend the opening of another exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-86. Art Institute of Chicago

With its meticulously-placed tiny dots of pure colours, Seurat’s masterpiece is clearly a step away from impressionism; however, it exemplifies the evolution in Seurat’s work that began with impressionist principles and shows a degree of influence, specifically, from the work of Armand Guillaumin. It’s interesting to note the similarity of the poses of the women in La Grande Jatte, above, The Seine at Courbevoie, below, and the woman in Guillaumin’s circa 1881 Quai de Bercy– a canvas that Seurat most likely saw and studied in Guillaumin’s studio.

Georges Seurat, The Seine at Courbevoie, 1885. Private Collection
Armand Guillaumin, Quai de Bercy, circa 1881. Private Collection

Between 1884 and 1887, Seurat was a frequent attendee at the gatherings in the studio on the Quai d’Anjou, where he engaged in the sometimes heated discussions about art with Guillaumin, Signac, and occasionally, Pissarro . In June of 1886, Seurat wrote to Signac saying that “Guillaumin is slightly mad at me. Apparently to him I am working like Raffaelli.”, a reference to the painter friend of Degas whose work Guillaumin and others despised. It seems Guillaumin felt Seurat’s precision in placing his dots of paint on the canvas resulted in images so crisp that they too closely resembled realist works. Still, in keeping with his liberal views on art, Guillaumin maintained friendly relations with Seurat, even refusing to exhibit with Gauguin’s group in early 1889 because Seurat was not invited. He did exhibit again with Seurat at the Indépendants in 1890 and 1891 but sadly, Seurat, who was helping to organize the show, fell ill and died suddenly.

George Seurat’s short life and even shorter career had a profound effect on subsequent art movements. Armand Guillaumin played an important role in providing space-both physical and psychological-for Seurat to develop and promulgate his theories.

Vincent van Gogh

Self Portrait as a Painter, 1887-88. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

In February 1886, Vincent van Gogh arrived in Paris to pursue his career as an artist. He remained there until February 1888; during that time and until his death, he remained an intimate friend and admirer of Armand Guillaumin. Introduced to Vincent and his brother Theo by the ‘broker in paintings’, M. Portier, Guillaumin found artistic camaraderie in Vincent, and a dealer willing to buy and sell his work in Theo, who was the manager of Boussod, Valadon & Cie., a branch of the prestigious Goupil group of galleries.

During his two years in Paris, Vincent was often found in Guillaumin’s studio, where he was able to take in the depth and breadth of the master’s oeuvre. He recalled in a June 1888 letter to his brother, a visit with Guillaumin in the winter of 1887-88: “Wasn’t it rather pleasant this winter at Guillaumin’s to find the landing and even the staircase, not to mention the studio, quite full of canvases? You understand since then that I have a certain ambition…” And in September 1888, he added, “If I continue working as I am these days, I’ll have my study full of really sound studies, the way it is at Guillaumin’s. Guillaumin must have some fine new things, of course, I don’t doubt it and I’d very much like to see them.” In Guillaumin’s oils, he saw the bright colours and vigorous brushwork that had been lacking in his own work prior to 1886. Taking his cue from the Impressionists, he lightened his pallet and livened up his brushwork. In his time in Paris, partially for reasons of economy, he painted dozens of still lifes of flowers, many of which owe a debt to Guillaumin’s earlier works.

Van Gogh, Chrysanthemums and Wildflowers in a Vase, 1887. The Met, NY
Guillaumin, Vase of Chrysanthemums, 1885. Private Collection

Just how much of an impact did Guillaumin’s work have on Vincent? Author Steven Naifeh in his 2021 book, Van Gogh and the Artists He Loved, argues that Guillaumin had “a profound effect on his art”. He goes on to state: “Even as Vincent encouraged Theo to acquire Guillaumin’s work, it began to influence his own paintings in a substantial and lasting way. There was a toughness to Guillaumin’s brushwork that made his urgent style of Impressionism in some ways easier for Vincent to access than that of the movement’s founding members.” And he added: “When Guillaumin introduced violent colors and brutal contrasts into the argument over the future of Impressionism, Van Gogh fired back with canvases of blazing color and crashing complementaries.” A few other painters undoubtedly exerted a greater influence, but it would be accurate to say that Guillaumin was among those who provided a powerful example of what Vincent was trying to achieve.

In addition to the artwork on view, the studio on the Quai d’Anjou was a meeting place for some of the most advanced artists of the day. Among those with whom Vincent spent time at Guillaumin’s were Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac, and Émile Bernard. Each of them would have a profound effect on Vincent’s development as an artist.

Guillaumin was a supporter of Vincent’s plan to set up a studio in Arles, with Vincent and Paul Gauguin as permanent residents-but open to their friends as needed. A letter to Gauguin from Vincent in Arles in early October 1888 refers to discussions about this endeavour and how it could benefit struggling artists: “When you left Paris, my brother and I spent more time there together that will always remain unforgettable to me. Our discussions took on a broader scope — with Guillaumin, with Pissarro, father and son, with Seurat, whom I didn’t know (I visited his studio just a few hours before my departure). In these discussions, it was often a matter of the thing that’s so dear to our hearts, both my brother’s and mine, the steps to be taken in order to preserve the financial existence of painters…”

When it comes to Guillaumin himself, there are numerous examples that illustrate Vincent’s admiration. It’s fortunate that Vincent was an inveterate letter-writer and among the hundreds of letters he wrote and received, mainly while he was away from Paris between February 1888 and July 1890, are thirty-six in which Guillaumin is referenced.

Regarding Armand Guillaumin as a person and as an artist, Vincent wrote:

“I believe that, as a man, Guillaumin has sounder ideas than the others, and that if we were all like him we’d produce more good things and would have less time and inclination to be at each other’s throats.” (December 1887 to Émile Bernard in reference to divisions between Gauguin’s Symbolist friends and neo-impressionists like Paul Signac)

“Lately I’ve done two portraits of myself, one of which is quite in character, I think, but in Holland they’d probably scoff at the ideas about portraits that are germinating here. Did you see at Theo’s the portrait of the painter Guillaumin and the portrait of a young woman by the same? That really gives an idea of what one is searching for. When Guillaumin exhibited his portrait, public and artists laughed at it a great deal, and yet it’s one of the rare things that would hold up alongside even the old Dutchmen Rembrandt and Hals.” (19 September 1889 to his sister, Willemien) Here, Vincent has placed Guillaumin’s work on a par with that of the great Dutch masters. Both paintings mentioned are now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. See the Opening Remarks page for the self-portrait; below is the young woman’s portrait:

Armand Guillaumin, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1886. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent wrote to Theo about the same two portraits, this time in the context of what sort of works to acquire that would stand the test of time: “Afterwards, what are we beginning to glimpse timidly at the moment that is original and lasting – the portrait. That’s something old, one might say – but it’s also brand new. We’ll talk more about this – but let’s still continue to seek out portraits, above all of artists, like the Guillaumin and Guillaumin’s portrait of a young girl…” (September 1889)

The next month, Theo wrote to Vincent informing him of some of Guillaumin’s recent work: “Guillaumin was in Auvergne this summer, from where he brought back some good canvases. He doesn’t search for much that’s new in the coloration. He’s content with what he’s found, and one always finds his same pink, orange and violet blue patches again, but his touch is vigorous and his view of nature is quite broad.”

Vincent wrote back a few days later saying, “What you say of Guillaumin is very true, he has found a true thing and he’s satisfied with what he’s found without embarking at random on dissimilar things, and that way he remains right and becomes stronger, always with these same very simple subjects. My word, he isn’t wrong, and I like this sincerity he has enormously.”

And a few days later, Vincent added: “For yes, one must feel the wholeness of a country – isn’t that what distinguishes a Cézanne from something else? And Guillaumin, whom you mention, he has so much style and a personal way of drawing. Anyway, I’ll do as I can.”

Over the years, Vincent was always eager to have Guillaumin and others look at his work and provide feedback. In July 1888, he wrote to Theo about Guillaumin having seen his latest canvases: “It’s good of Guillaumin to have come to have a look, I’m very sensitive about it, but in short, I’m unhappy with everything I’m doing.” He was still frequently lacking confidence in his work and he appreciated knowing that other artists approved of what he was trying to achieve. Shortly before his death, he wrote from Auvers that he was happy Guillaumin had again seen his newest paintings.

Vincent wasn’t solely concerned with creating art; he was actively involved in helping Theo select artwork to purchase and to facilitate sales of his friends’ work. In a series of letters from Arles between the spring of 1888 and 1889, Vincent discusses the purchase of works by Guillaumin:

At the start of April 1888, Vincent wrote to Theo regarding the proposed sale of a painting to a Scottish art dealer named Alexander Reid, the price for which Guillaumin had objected to. “I don’t at all like Reid’s way of behaving towards us, it seems funny to me that you and Guillaumin haven’t already arranged to cancel the sale of the painting in question. You can tell Guillaumin boldly from me that that’s my firm opinion, and as much in the interests of G. himself as in the interests of business in general. The price was already derisory.

Later in April, he wrote to Theo about a pastel, Farmhouse at Janville: “As for the Guillaumin, if it’s possible, it’s certainly a good deal to buy it. But since they’re talking about a new method for fixing pastel, would perhaps be wise to ask him to fix it in this way, in case of purchase.”

In May, he informed Theo that a friend, John Russell (an Australian artist), had made a purchase: “I’ve had a letter from Russell, who has bought a Guillaumin and 2 or 3 Bernards. I’m extremely pleased about that…” Then a few days later, Vincent wrote: “Please let Guillaumin know that Russell wants to go and see him at home and intends to buy another painting from him. I’m writing to Russell today.” In July, he and Theo were trying to persuade Russell to purchase a work by Gauguin, but Russell was hesitant. Vincent suggests shifting the focus to his other friend: “And the same for Guillaumin, I’d like him [Russell] to buy a figure by G[uillaumin].”

Theo had been purchasing works by the Impressionists for a few years when he wrote in May 1889: “If we see that Pissarros, Gauguins, Renoirs, Guillaumins don’t sell, one must be almost pleased not to have the public’s favour, since those who have it now won’t always have it, and the times could well change very soon.” It is clear that the brothers shared a strong conviction that contemporary tastes in art were on the verge of changing and that the work of the Impressionists would find favour in the near future. They were of course proven to be correct.

Guillaumin and Van Gogh exhibited together in Vincent’s lifetime but only once. There are two letters that refer to the upcoming exhibition of the Indépendants in the spring of 1890:

In January, Theo wrote: “A new exhibition of the Impressionists (sic) is being prepared here for March, in the Ville de Paris pavilion. Everyone will be able to send along as many canvases as they want. Guillaumin is going to exhibit there too. Think whether you want to exhibit too, and which canvases.” After the opening in March, Theo wrote again to tell Vincent his paintings were being well-received and to let him know, “Guillaumin is exhibiting several things, some very good ones among them…” Guillaumin exhibited eight oils and two pastels.

Vincent was able to see works by Guillaumin twice at exhibition, first in the final Impressionist show in 1886, later at Boussod, Valadon & Cie in an exhibition of works by Guillaumin, Pissarro and Gauguin in January 1888. Guillaumin, for his part, visited with Pissarro and Seurat an exhibition of one hundred of Vincent’s paintings in the spring of 1887, a show that Vincent had organized.

In mid-May 1890, Vincent moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, where he was to be under the care of Guillaumin’s old friend, Dr. Gachet. In the doctor’s home, Vincent was able to see for the first time examples of Guillaumin’s early work. “Gachet has a Guillaumin, naked woman on a bed, which I consider very beautiful, he also has a very old Guillaumin portrait by him, very different from ours, dark but interesting.” (June 3rd, 1890)

Armand Guillaumin, Reclining Nude, circa 1877. Orsay Museum, Paris

Vincent reportedly became agitated because Reclining Nude was resting on the floor in an unattractive frame. Gachet agreed to have it reframed but after that was done, Vincent became enraged that the new frame still did not do justice to a painting he considered a masterwork.

On June 5th, Theo was able to report on a proposed exchange for a painting of the Alps by Vincent that both Gauguin and Guillaumin had coveted: “Guillaumin has placed at your disposal a magnificent painting which was at Tanguy’s, Sunset. It will look good in your studio.”

In the first few days of July 1890, with his mental health extremely fragile, Vincent made his last visit to Paris to see Theo and his brother’s wife, Jo, and their new baby, along with a few friends. According to Jo, “Guillaumin was also expected to come, but it became too much for Vincent, so he did not wait for this visit but hurried back to Auvers-overtired and excited…” Vincent wrote a few days later: “I very much regret not having seen Guillaumin again, but it pleases me that he’s seen my canvases. If I’d waited for him I would probably have stayed to talk with him in such a way as to miss my train.”

On July 27th, Vincent shot himself. He died two days later. Theo, heartbroken at the loss of his brother, died less than six months later in January 1891.

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