Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853–1890
The Bedroom

Oil on canvas
29 x 36 5/8 in. (73.6 x 92.3 cm)
Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.417

Born in the Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh pursued a number of careers and relocated frequently before moving to France to devote himself to painting. Struggling financially and battling depression, van Gogh left Paris in 1888 for the southern French town of Arles. There, he hoped to create an artists’ colony called the "Studio of the South" and tried repeatedly to convince fellow artists Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard to join him. Although his artists’ community never developed, Gauguin stayed in Arles for a time in 1888. In anticipation of Gauguin’s arrival, van Gogh created paintings to decorate his home and studio, including depictions of flowers, views of Arles, and renderings of his bedroom. The Art Institute’s canvas is the second of three paintings van Gogh made of this subject. The first is in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and the third is in Paris’s Musée d’Orsay.

In a letter to his brother, van Gogh described the scene as a symbol of relaxation and peace. Although the room appears to be bathed in sunshine, the very intense color palette, receding perspective, and inclusion of pictures tilting off the wall undermine the restful mood. Van Gogh’s dynamic, visible, and directional brushstrokes make the objects in the room seem solid and almost sculptural.

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853–1890

Oil on artist's board, mounted on cradled panel
16 1/8 x 13 1/4 in. (41 x 32.5 cm)
Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1954.326

In the early years of his career, van Gogh assimilated several avant-garde painting styles into his artwork. In this self-portrait, he used a vibrating assembly of dots and dashes in complementary colors to demonstrate his awareness of Pointillism, the painting method used by Georges Seurat in A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884.

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