Vincent van Gogh - The bedroom

by Alexandra Tuschka


Van Gogh offers us an unusual perspective here. It seems we are standing at the foot of his bed, which is unnaturally foreshortened into the picture space. The paintings hang crookedly on the wall, as if they wanted to bend, and the chairs betray some carelessness in the size dimension. As if the floor had been folded up, the objects literally "fall" towards the viewer.

The bedroom in question is located in Arles, Place Lamartine 2, also known as the "yellow house". From the window you must have been able to look directly onto the square. The right door led to the hallway and stairs, the left door led to the guest room. Here the colleague and friend Paul Gauguin will have often stayed overnight. To the latter Vincent wrote about the work: "I enjoyed it immensely. This interior with nothing in it, of a simplicity a la Seurat: flat colors, but roughly applied, very impasto. (...) With all these very different colors I wanted to express a perfect calm." With few exceptions, van Gogh eschewed white, preferring to paint the light objects with a yellow cast. Thick, black outlines separate them almost naively. In the process of finding the picture, the painter even considered a nude on the bed or a cradle.


The painting, which is one of the artist's most famous, was also one of his favorites. In 13 letters van Gogh describes the painting to his family full of enthusiasm. After this, two more versions of the motif on canvas were created, as well as two studies. Van Gogh wanted to calm the eye with the picture - due to the many inconsistencies, especially with regard to perspective, he did not entirely succeed.


It is also unusual that the paintings on the wall are mostly identifiable - these are the only "pictures in the picture" with van Gogh. For example, in the earliest version that hangs in the Van Gogh Museum today, the landscape painting "Rock with Oak" is frontal and portraits of Eugéne Boch and Paul-Eugène Milliet are on the side wall. Some objects of everyday use are still on the small wooden table. The two later versions were created when van Gogh was in the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Remy. Nevertheless, the first original is usually cited as the most successful.


Vincent van Gogh - The bedroom

Oil on canvas, 1888, 72 x 90,5 cm, van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam