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“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh

"Bedroom in Arles" by Vincent van Gogh

“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh

“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh describes three similar paintings by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter created between 1888 – 1889.

Van Gogh’s title for this composition was simply “The Bedroom.” There are three versions, easily distinguishable from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

Van Gogh depicted his bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as the Yellow House.

The open door leads to the upper floor and the staircase. The closed-door was for the guest room he held prepared for Gauguin.

The window looked on to Place Lamartine and its public gardens. The bedroom was not rectangular but trapezoid, so no wall was at a right angle to any other wall.

This reality may have contributed to the picture’s energy and instability, which is heightened by the prominent receding perspective.

Van Gogh started the first version in October 1888.  In a letter, he explained that the painting had come out of a sickness that left him bedridden for days.

Van Gogh explained his aims to his brother Theo:

“This time it simply reproduces my bedroom, but color must be abundant in this part, its simplification adding a rank of grandee to the style applied to the objects, getting to suggest a certain rest or dream.

Well, I have thought that on watching the composition we stop thinking and imagining. I have painted the walls pale violet. The ground with checked material.

The wooden bed and the chairs, yellow like fresh butter; the sheet and the pillows, lemon light green. The bedspread, scarlet-colored. The window, green.

The washbasin, orangey; the tank, blue. The doors, lilac. And, that is all. There is not anything else in this room with closed shutters.

“The square pieces of furniture must express unswerving rest; also, the portraits on the wall, the mirror, the bottle, and some costumes.

The white color has not been applied to the picture, so its frame will be white, aimed to get me even with the compulsory rest recommended for me.

I have depicted no type of shade or shadow; I have only applied simple plain colors, like those in crêpes.”

Vincent van Gogh - The Bedroom

Art Institute of Chicago – second version

The first version of the painting at the Van Gogh Museum has on the wall miniatures of Van Gogh’s portraits of his friends Eugène Boch and Paul-Eugène Milliet.

The portrait of Eugène Boch is called The Poet, and the picture of Paul Eugène Milliet is called The Lover.

Van Gogh had decorated the room himself with simple furniture and his work on the wall. The bright colors had to express “absolute peace” or “sleep.” Parts of the painting have discolored over time, so the walls and doors were initially not blue but purple.

This second version of “The Bedroom” was created in September 1889, it was the same size and is exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. This version has Gogh’s self-portrait on the well with another unidentified portrait.

In the same month, Van Gogh decided to redo several of his “best” compositions into a smaller size for his mother and sister Wil. “The Bedroom” was amongst the paintings he chose.

This smaller version (57.5 x 74 cm) is exhibited at Musée d’Orsay, Paris. This version also has Van Gogh’s self-portrait. The other portrait cannot be linked with certainty to any existing painting by Van Gogh.

Vincent van Gogh - Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles

Musée d’Orsay – the third version

Van Gogh had written to his brother that he purposely painted the interior “flat” with no shadows to make it look like Japanese prints. Van Gogh was delighted with the result:

“When I saw my canvases again after my illness, I thought the Bedroom was the best.”

There are also two sketches of “The Bedroom” from letters he sent to his brother in his letters.

Vincent van Gogh - Vincent's Bedroom in Arles

 Sketch from a letter to Theo – Van Gogh Museum

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure.

He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life.

They were characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive, and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.

Bedroom in Arles

  • Title:                  Bedroom in Arles
  • French:              La Chambre à Arles
  • Dutch:               Slaapkamer te Arles
  • Also:                  The Bedroom (French: La Chambre à coucher)
  • Artist:                Vincent van Gogh
  • Year:                  1888 – 1889
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions      Height: 72.4 cm (28.5 in); Width: 91.3 cm (35.9 in)
  • Museum:          Van Gogh Museum (First version – 1888)
  • Museum:          Art Institute of Chicago (Second version – 1889)
  • Museum:          Musée d’Orsay (Third version – 1889) small size Height: 570 mm (22.44 in); Width: 740 mm (29.13 in))

Vincent van Gogh

A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms at the Art Institute of Chicago

Under Cover: The Science of Van Gogh’s Bedrooms

The Painting that Helped Ease Van Gogh’s Most Turbulent Year


“The best way to know God is to love many things.”
– Vincent van Gogh


Photo Credit: 1) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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