Vincent van Gogh Paris painting from 1887 to make public debut

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Scène de rue à Montmartre has been part of same French family’s private collection for more than a century

A detail from Vincent van Gogh’s Scène de rue à Montmartre
A detail from Scène de rue à Montmartre, which is expected to fetch €5m-€8m when it goes on sale in March. Photograph: WestImage - Art Digital Studio/Sotheby’s
A detail from Scène de rue à Montmartre, which is expected to fetch €5m-€8m when it goes on sale in March. Photograph: WestImage - Art Digital Studio/Sotheby’s

Last modified on Thu 25 Feb 2021 00.09 EST

A major Paris work by Vincent van Gogh that has been part of the same French family’s private collection for more than a century is to go on public display for the first time since it was painted in the spring of 1887.

Scène de rue à Montmartre is part of a very rare series depicting the celebrated Moulin de la Galette, on the hilltop overlooking the capital, painted during the two years the Dutch artist spent sharing an apartment with his brother Theo on rue Lepic.

Acquired by a French collector in 1920, it has remained in the same family ever since and never been shown in public, despite being listed in seven catalogues. It will be exhibited in London, Amsterdam and Paris before being sold by Sotheby’s in March when it is expected to fetch between €5m (£4.3m) and €8m.

“Very few paintings from Van Gogh’s Montmartre period remain in private hands – most are in the collections of prestigious museums around the world,” said Aurélie Vandevoorde of the auctioneer’s impressionist and modern art department in France. “The appearance on the market of a painting of this calibre, from such an iconic series, undoubtedly marks a major event.”

Claudia Mercier of the auction house Mirabaud Mercier, which is associated with the sale, said the work was “captivating”.

The painting shows the Moulin Dubray or Moulin à Poivre, a Montmartre windmill destroyed in 1911, along with the entrance of the Moulin de la Galette enclosure topped with decorative lanterns, and a carousel behind the wooden fence.

Montmartre, also known as La Butte, was being rapidly transformed at the time from rural village to brash amusement district, popular with Parisians for its cafes and with a generation of artists, intellectuals and writers for its bohemian atmosphere.

Van Gogh’s two years in Paris from 1886 to February 1888, when he left for Arles, are widely seen as laying the foundation for his later unique style, exposing him to the influence of impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro but also a younger generation of artists including Paul Signac, Émile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.