In early June 1886, Theo and Vincent moved out of the apartment on Rue Laval and into one at 54 Rue Lepic. With Vincent's arrival in Paris that February, the Rue Laval flat had become too small. The new apartment was spacious by Parisian standards; at any rate, Vincent had his own studio, a room at the back with a small window. He slept in a small room known as the cabinet. At the front of the flat were Theo's room and the living room. The walls must have eventually become covered with paintings by Vincent and others; the brothers collected works by other artists, which they bought or received in exchange for Vincent’s.
Thanks to Vincent’s sister-in-law Jo van Gogh-Bonger, who married Theo on 18 April 1889, we know how the apartment looked. It had
“drie tamelijk groote kamers, een cabinet en een keukentje. De woonkamer was gerieflijk en gezellig met Theo’s mooie, oude kast, een gemakkelijke sofa en een groote vulkachel want de broers waren beiden even kouwelijk; daarnaast was Theo’s slaapkamer. Vincent sliep in het cabinet, en daarachter was het atelier, een gewone kamer met één, niet bizonder groot raam.” (source: Jo van Gogh Bonger, XXXVI, DL 1, 1955)
The fourth-floor flat in Montmartre looked out over the city. Vincent painted the view several times, but he preferred being outside on the streets of Montmartre, where subjects presented themselves to him – outdoor life, the windmills on the hill, the cafés. In his studio, he worked on paintings begun outside, produced portraits and self-portraits, turned out countless floral still lifes inspired by the artist Monticelli, and worked from his collection of casts of classical sculptures.
According to Theo, not a day went by without Vincent welcoming a visitor or receiving an invitation to a fellow artist’s studio, and each week an acquaintance sent a bouquet of cut flowers for him to paint from. Despite these positive reports, though, the atmosphere in the flat became anything but amiable; the brothers did not enjoy an intimate, friendly bond. Vincent’s personality strained their relationship. A little more than a year after Vincent’s arrival in Paris, Theo wrote to their sister Willemien:
“No one wants to come by any more because it always leads to rows, and he’s so filthy and slovenly that the household looks anything but inviting. What I just hope is that he’ll go and live on his own, he’s spoken about that for a long time, because if I told him that he had to go it would be the very reason for him to stay.” (source: brief Theo van Gogh aan Willemien van Gogh, 14 maart 1887)
Relations soon took a turn for the better, however; in April, Theo notified their sister that the brothers had made peace and he had asked Vincent to stay. Vincent finally left for Arles on 19 February 1888. Tired of busy city life, he went south in search of brighter light and the peace of the countryside. Theo remained in the apartment for another year. Lonely after Vincent's departure, he sought a new flatmate and found one in the Dutch artist Arnold Koning. On 20 April 1888, Theo moved out of the apartment to live with his new wife, Jo Bonger, in an apartment on Cité Pigalle.