Plaster Torso, 1886 by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh arrived in Paris in March 1886, and lived there with his brother Theo for the next two gears. It was arguably this period in his career that formulated his mature style of painting, and was of the greatest influence on his emerging visual language. He is thought to have enrolled in the studio of Felix Cormon (1845-1924) for approximately four months. During this time he was taught the principles of 'academic' art, and was required to make copies from plaster torsos, as seen in this painting.

This was normal practice within the French art academies, and preceded drawing from life models. It had been Van Gogh's reluctance to do this very thing that had led to his falling out with Mauve in The Hague, yet once in Paris the artist applied himself and made numerous drawings and paintings of casts similar to this. Cormon's studio was steeped in traditional values and from accounts was a place gripped by restraint. The plaster casts were set against drab backcloths, so Van Gogh's brilliant blues and greens show the artist already revelling in his newly brightened palette,