Hans HEYSEN | From the apartment window, Paris

Germany 1877 – Australia 1968
Australia from 1884; Europe, England 1899-1903

From the apartment window, Paris 1901
oil on canvas
44.5 (h) x 37.0 (w) cm
Elizabeth and Tom Hunter Bequest 2009, Art Gallery of South Australia


During his two-and-a-half years of study in Paris Heysen lived in Montparnasse, the centre of the Parisian art world. He rented a small room on the fifth floor of the Grand Hotel de la Haute-Loire on the corner of the Boulevard Raspail and Boulevard du Montparnasse. It was a most convenient location for a student at the art schools and museums. The Académie Colarossi, where he took night classes, was within a stone’s throw of the hotel off Boulevard Montparnasse on the small Rue de la Grande Chaumière. Within walking distance were the two other art schools attended by Heysen, the Académie Julian on Rue du Dragon off Boulevard St Germain, and the École des Beaux-Arts on the River Seine at Quai Malaquais. Two short blocks from the hotel were the Luxembourg Gardens, another frequent subject, parts from the river and the boulevards, for his Parisian landscapes.

In winter, when the weather discourages sketching en plein-air, Heysen spent his afternoons indoors in his room, transforming it into a cramped studio by using his bed as an easel for the larger and more considered oil paintings. This elevated room provided the viewpoint for the snow-covered roofs and footpaths seen in From the apartment window, Paris. The viewer looks west along the tree-lined Boulevard Montparnasse. The large six-storey building with balcony windows housed the famous Café du Dôme on its ground floor, a meeting place for artists and writers, a role it still holds today. This view from the artist’s window is boldly painted and rich in colour, the sparkling white highlights of snow accenting and contrasting dramatically with the subtle browns and pinks of the buildings. It is a delightfully warm memento of Heysen’s student experience in Paris.

Rebecca Andrews

© Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2008
Andrews, Hans Heysen, exhibition book, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2008