The Bedroom, 1889

The Bedroom, 1889


With everything about it cheerfully colored and slightly askew, The Bedroom is among  the artist’s most personal paintings. It was so important to him that he made three versions of it. One can just imagine his excitement as he prepared for Gauguin’s visit to the small yellow house he was renting in Arles. This was Vincent’s first real home of his own, and he was incredibly proud of how he had furnished and decorated it. Gauguin’s stay, he hoped, would lead to the creation of an artists’ collective, a Studio of the South, that would attract a community of modern painters to come live and work under the Mediterranean sun. Of course, as we know, that’s not what ended up happening, and Gauguin fled after only eight weeks.

You might notice there’s a whole lot of pairing going on in the bedroom. Twos are everywhere: we have a pair of green shutters, two straw chairs, two pillows, and two paired sets of paintings above the bed. Gauguin got his own room in the yellow house, which Vincent touchingly filled with the sunflower paintings his friend deeply admired. It seems, however, that Van Gogh wanted so desperately to project a sense of human connection, he believed Gauguin’s visit would bring, that he went a little overboard with the idea of doubling! Vincent even painted individual portraits of their respective chairs, in turquoise and yellow for himself and red and green for Gauguin, as stand-ins for the two artists. He truly wanted this friendship to work!

Image: Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom, 1889, Oil on canvas, 28.98 x 36.34 in. (73.6 x 92.3 cm) Helen Bartlett Memorial Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago/Bridgeman Images.