Every time Vincent was in Paris – whether for days or years – he went to the Louvre to look at the masterpieces. In 1875–76, living in the city and working for the art dealers Goupil & Cie, he often went to the Louvre or the Musée du Luxembourg on Sundays with his friend Harry Gladwell.
The Louvre’s importance to Vincent is demonstrated by the fact that when he moved back to Paris ten years later, he went straight there. On his arrival on 28 February 1886, he wrote to his brother Theo:
Between 1886 and 1888, Vincent regularly visited the Louvre. There, he was able to study his favourite artist Eugène Delacroix’s painting technique and use of colour. Vincent was also an ardent admirer of seventeenth-century Dutch painting: he wrote several times about Adriaen van Ostade’s Family Portrait, praised the work of Jacob van Ruisdael, and devoured the Rembrandts, Paulus Potters and Gerard ter Borchs. Writing from Arles to his artist friend Émile Bernard in 1888, Vincent urged him to go to the Louvre and study the work of the Dutch old masters.
Vincent was evidently critical of the museum’s conservation methods, for he also wrote to Bernard:
“What grieves me at the Louvre is to see their Rembrandts getting spoiled and the cretins in the administration damaging many beautiful paintings. Thus the annoying yellow tonality of certain canvases by Rembrandt is an effect of deterioration through humidity or other causes, instances of which I could point out to you.”