Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh. Painting Bedroom in Arles first version 1888
Van Gogh. Painting Bedroom in Arles first version 1888.

Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh – cult works of a brilliant master

The canvas “Bedroom in Arles” shows a small room with two doors. Arranged furniture around the perimeter reveals an empty space in the foreground, with a worn, peeling floor. The same effect is created by an emphatically simple setting with simple utensils on the dressing table and clothes. The viewer immediately notices errors in perspective and violation of the proportions of objects.

A massive bed with curly curved backs looks excessively bulky and occupies a significant part of the canvas. Portraits of men and Japanese prints hang crookedly above it. The upper corner of the room, marked with blue paint, clearly indicates the irregular shape of the residential building. The unnatural feeling is enhanced by the illusion effect. The window is covered with green shutters, it lets in the rays of the sun, which flood the room with light.

Name of the painting: “Bedroom in Arles”.
Author: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).
Year of creation: 1888-1889
Size: 72.4 x 91.3 cm (first and second versions), 57.5 x 74 cm (third version).
Style: Post-impressionism.
Genre: Household genre.
Technique: Oil painting.
Material: Canvas.
Location: Art Institute, Chicago. Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France.

Vincent van Gogh is a brilliant Dutch artist of the 19th century who left a bright mark on art.

His short career, interrupted by an untimely death, led to the creation of more than two thousand works. Years later, most of them were recognized by contemporaries as the standard of painting. In 1888 Van Gogh moved to a small town in southern France. There he rented a dilapidated two-story mansion, painted yellow on the outside. He depicted the interior of his room on the second floor in the painting “Bedroom in Arles”.

Van Gogh. Painting Boulders and Oak 1888
Van Gogh. Painting Boulders and Oak 1888

The first version of the work dates from October 1888.

At the same time, the artist sent sketches of the “Bedroom” to his brother Theo and Paul Gauguin, with whom he was in active correspondence. In the letters, he explained his plan – the preservation of the minimalism of the premises, style and nobility.

He supplied the sketches with a detailed description indicating all the shades used in the work. Unfortunately, some of the colors on the canvas have faded over time. So, the originally pale purple walls of the “Bedroom” have lost their red pigment and now look blue.

Van Gogh. Painting Self portrait 1889
Van Gogh. Painting Self portrait 1889

The main distinguishing feature of the entire series “Bedroom in Arles” was the elements of auto-quoting. In the room, the master symbolically depicted other miniature paintings. All of them are real-life works of the master, but in each version they are different.

In the first version, on the right above the bed, Van Gogh placed portraits of friends: Eugene Bosch and Lieutenant Millet, whom he taught to draw. Opposite them, he placed two empty chairs – a symbolic attribute in the master’s work, associated with the absence and expectation of a person. These objects seem to be conducting a silent dialogue with the persons depicted.

Van Gogh. Painting Yellow House 1888
Van Gogh. Painting Yellow House 1888
Second version

If the artist painted the first picture, being a happy person, then the traces of his mental disorder were reflected on the second canvas. All objects, including individual tiles on the floor, he outlined in bold black outlines. He also opened the shutters, which had previously been closed more tightly and thus evoked a sense of security.

Instead of images of friends, a self-portrait of the artist appears on the wall. Next to him is a portrait of a girl, Madame Ginoux, for whom Van Gogh had warm feelings. He often painted her images, even while in a hospital.

Landscape “Boulders and Oak”, located above the head of the bed, Vincent left in place. This picture, written in the summer of 1888, was especially liked by his brother and was associated with the life of the artist himself.

Van Gogh. Painting Bedroom in Arles second version 1889
Van Gogh. Painting Bedroom in Arles second version 1889
The third copy of the painting “Bedroom in Arles” Van Gogh made in the summer of 1889

Van Gogh painted the painting for his mother and sister Wilhelmina, who lived in Holland. On this canvas, the miniatures are drawn much more clearly. Unlike the previous version, here the viewer sees another self-portrait of the artist and, possibly, a portrait of his mother, whose image he captured in a study for his brother. Vincent is known to have been working on a family series at the time. As evidence of a premonition of imminent death, a landscape with a crimson sunset appears at the head of the bed. At the moment he remains unidentified.

Van Gogh. Painting Bedroom in Arles third version 1889
Van Gogh. Painting Bedroom in Arles third version 1889
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