In late February 1886, Van Gogh arrives in Paris. There he aims to further develop as an artist and also hopes to sell his work in the city. He moves in with his brother Theo. Their small apartment lies at the foot of the ‘butte’ Montmartre on the northern edge of the city. At that time, this hill is still almost without buildings and has a rural character.
In the spring, Van Gogh explores his surroundings. He paints this panoramic La butte Montmartre, viewed from the north, in the open air. His sober, autumnal palette of predominantly red-brown and brown-yellow is still reminiscent of his Dutch period. But in the picturesque use of different shades of green, blue and white, he is already cautiously experimenting with colour and light.
The almost square brushstroke slightly right of centre in the sky is a retouch, which Van Gogh himself applied. This was because a hole had formed in the paint layer, making the ground layer visible. The brushstrokes around it may have served to somewhat camouflage this all-too-visible correction.