Very few artists in history have been able to turn a painting of a simple bedroom into one of the most iconic artworks ever completed.
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was a Dutch artist who completed dozens of Post-Impressionist masterpieces during his career that lasted just a decade.
The main talent of the renowned Post-Impressionist artist was the ability to transform relatively ordinary scenes into distinctive and easily recognizable paintings.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh, one of the artist’s most famous works.
1. It’s the title of 3 similar paintings that were completed in 1888 and 1889
Vincent van Gogh moved from the crowded Paris, where he lived together with his brother Theo, to the quiet Arles in southern France in February of the year 1888.
He thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of this small city and produced some of his most famous masterpieces here such as Café Terrace at Night, Starry Night Over the Rhône, The Night Café, and The Red Vineyard.
Bedroom in Arles is the title of 3 very similar paintings that he produced in 1888 and 1889. The artist himself referred to the paintings as “The Bedroom” or “La Chambre à Coucher.”
Below are the 3 different versions.
Version 1 – October 1888
Version 2 – September 1889
Version 3 – September 1889
2. It depicts the room of the artist’s bedroom inside the Yellow House
The artist once described Arles as being “another planet.” He found the place to be so exotic that it inspired him to paint over 200 paintings and produce over 100 drawings and watercolors here.
He lived in various hotels during the first couple of months in Arles and finally moved to the iconic place known as the “Yellow House” in May of 1888.
He installed his studio on the first floor of the building and the bedroom depicted in these paintings was located on the second floor.
The Yellow House was located at 2 Place Lamartine and Vincent occupied the right part of the building.
Unfortunately, this building was destroyed on June 25, 1944, during an allied bombing, and it ended up being demolished shortly after.
3. He wrote a letter to his brother Theo in which he described the painting
It didn’t take a lot for Vincent van Gogh to be inspired. He presumably painted Bedroom in Arles after he was sick and bedridden for multiple days.
He wrote hundreds of letters to his brother Theo in which he described the paintings he was working on, and this includes a letter about this masterpiece.
In his letter to Theo, he extensively described his use of color, but also added that “this is simply my bedroom.”
He also included a sketch so his brother could see what the finished painting looked like.
4. He wrote a letter to the colleague he invited to Arles as well
One of the main reasons why Vincent van Gogh experienced such a prolific period in Arles was because he intended to start an art colony here.
He invited Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), a French artist who experienced a similar lack of enthusiasm about his art during his lifetime as Vincent.
Vincent hoped that the two would become great colleagues and friends. He designed the Yellow House and decorated it with several paintings, including multiple in his famous Sunflowers series.
Gauguin finally agreed to visit Arles and he stayed in the guestroom of the Yellow House, which is the door to the left. The door to the right opened up to the hallway and staircase.
Vincent sent Gauguin a letter as well and included a similar drawing. Unfortunately, the visit ended dramatically when van Gogh experienced a mental breakdown and cut off part of his left ear.
5. The paintings can be distinguished by the portraits attached to the wall
Vincent completed the first version of the painting in October 1888, shortly before Paul Gauguin arrived in Arles.
The second version is merely a repetition of the first produced nearly a year later. That’s because it was slightly damaged by the flood of the Rhône while Vincent was in the hospital.
The first version features two portraits that Vincent completed earlier. The portrait on the left depicts Belgian artist Eugène Boch and is titled “The Poet.”
The one on the right depicts a French 2nd Lieutenant of the 3rd Zouave Regiment named Paul-Eugène Milliet and is titled “The Lover.”
The third version depicts a self-portrait of van Gogh to the left and an unidentified painting on the right.
6. The first version never left the collection of the artist’s family
The first version never left the family of Vincent van Gogh and has been in the possession of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation since 1962.
The second version was brought to Chicago in 1926 as part of the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.
The third version probably has the most interesting backstory because it was once owned by Prince Matsukata of Japan. He donated it to the French state in 1959 as a token of gratitude for the French-Japanese peace settlement.
7. How big is Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh?
Because the second version was produced as a replica of the first, it has the same dimensions. Both are oil on canvas paintings with dimensions of 72 × 90 centimeters (28.3 × 35.4 inches).
The third version was intended to be a reproduction of what the artist figured were his best compositions. He referred to these as “réductions” and they were gifts for his mother and his sister Wil.
The third version is slightly smaller than the first two versions and has dimensions of 57 x 74 centimeters (22.44 x 29.13 inches).
8. Where are the paintings located today?
The three paintings were briefly exhibited in Chicago in 2016 during an event titled “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms.” For now, you can admire the paintings in the following museums:
- Version 1 – The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
- Version 2 – The Art Institute of Chicago
- Version 3 – The Musée d’Orsay in Paris