In order to practise drawing and painting from live models, Vincent went to study under Fernand Cormon (1845–1924), a French painter who had made a name for himself in the salons of Paris. Before leaving Antwerp, Vincent had made plans to go to Cormon’s studio to improve his knowledge and skill in figure drawing. In early March 1886, just after his arrival in Paris, he joined Cormon’s “atelier libre” (open studio) on the ground floor at 104 Boulevard de Clichy. The artists drew from casts of classical sculptures and painted from nude models. Cormon worked in a different studio and came in once a week to give the students instruction. The artist Émile Bernard recalled of Vincent:
“He would make three studies each session, getting bogged down in impastos, constantly starting all over again on new canvases, painting the model from all sides, while the pathetic students who laughed at him behind his back took eight days to make an idiotic copy of a foot.”
Another fellow student recalled:
“He was an outstanding colleague, but you had to leave him alone. As a man of the north, he disliked the Parisian esprit. The jokers in the studio avoided pulling pranks on him; they were a bit afraid to. If we were discussing ‘art’ and someone disagreed with him and took things too far, he’d let fly in a terrifying manner.”
The only painted study remaining from Vincent's time at Cormon’s studio is Nude Girl, Seated, which shows that even young children served as models. Vincent stopped going to the lessons after about three months; he wrote:
Though he did not consider his time at the studio educational, it was definitely important for his artistic career in Paris. He met numerous fellow artists there, and some, like John Peter Russell, Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, became his friends.