One of the most legendary houses in the world of art was located in Arles in the south of France, mainly because it used to be the home of one of the most famous painters in history.
1. The Yellow House was painted in 1888
The Yellow House is a painting by famous Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh who created the work during his period in Arles. It was painted in September of the year 1888, which was about 7 months after he arrived there after leaving Paris.
It was a time that he was quite ill from his drinking and smoking habits and he sought a quiet place in southern France to get his life back in order. While this eventually didn’t end well (he ended up in the hospital after cutting his own ear and checked himself into the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum shortly after), it became one of his most prolific periods.
2. Van Gogh lived in the house when he painted it
The painting depicts the house that he started renting in May 1888, at 2 Place Lamartine, Arles, which was just 4 months before he created the work. He turned the ground floor into his atelier and his bedroom was on the second floor and can be recognized because one of the shutters closed.
The other room with both shutters open was a guest room. (and a famous guest would end up staying here shortly after the painting was painted). Vincent initially didn’t rent the two rooms at the back as well.
3. Another famous painter lived at the house for 9 weeks
Just a month after the painting was finished, the guest room was occupied by a famous painter who Vincent van Gogh had invited. This painter was Paul Gauguin, a French Post-Impressionist artist with whom Vincent intended to create some sort of “art colony.”
Gauguin stayed in the room next to Vincent’s and the visit would culminate in one of the most infamous moments in art history as Vincent van Gogh cut off part of his own ear on Christmas Eve of the year 1888.
4. How big is the Yellow House Painting?
The size of the painting is rather average as this oil on canvas painting has dimensions of 76 × 94 centimeters (28.3 × 36 inches).
This is about the same size as one of his most famous paintings called “The Starry Night” (73.7 × 92.1 centimeters / 28.7 × 36.25 inches) and a bit smaller than one of his earlier works called “The Potato Eaters” (82 × 114 centimeters / 32.3 × 44.9 inches).
5. The house doesn’t exist anymore today
One of the most remarkable facts about the Yellow House is that the house doesn’t exist anymore today. It was severely damaged when the Allies bombed Arles on June 25, 1944, and ended up being demolished after World War II.
Right now, all that remains is a plaque that indicates where the house used to stand.
6. The restaurant where Van Gogh ate is also included in the painting
Another notable building included in the painting is the pink building on the left edge. In one of the letters he wrote to his brother Theo he mentioned this:
The house on the left is yellow with green shutters. It’s the one that is shaded by a tree. This is the restaurant where I go to dine every day.Excerpt from Vincent’s letter.
This restaurant was owned and managed by “Widow Venissac” who not only owned multiple of the buildings included in the painting but was also Van Gogh’s landlady at the time.
7. The café he often visited is not too far away as well
Some of Vincent’s most famous paintings depict cafés he often visited, for example, the painting “Café Terrace At Night” which was the first painting to include the starry sky. This café is located on the Place du Forum which is about a kilometer to the southeast of the Yellow House.
The other one is called “The Night Café” and depicts a number of drunkards as they sit inside a café. This café is located just near Vincent’s house at 30 Place Lamartine, something Vincent also mentioned in one of his letters.
The night café that I painted is not in the picture, it is on the left of the restaurant.Vincent talking about “The Night Café.”
8. Van Gogh also painted ongoing works in the street at the time
If you look closely at the street in front of the house, you can also see that a ditch has been dug there, all the way across the “Avenue Montmajour” which leads up to the railway.
These were ongoing works to install gas lines which eventually provided Vincent with gas light inside the house he rented.
9. There’s a train passing by in the background as well
Just a short distance behind the Yellow House we can see a train passing by as well. This line connected Arles with Lunel and ended up crossing the River Rhône.
The other line was owned by the P.-L.-M. Railway Company (Paris Lyon Méditerranée).
10. The painting wasn’t originally called “The Yellow House”
Vincent van Gogh clearly didn’t intend to just paint the house he rented but wanted to include his surroundings as well. That’s why he initially called it “The House and its environment” (“La Maison et son entourage” in French).
He ended up changing this to “The Street” (“La Rue” in French), in honor of French realist painter Jean-François Raffaëlli, who created numerous paintings of streets in Paris.
11. A famous French painter created a watercolor of Van Gogh’s house
The French Neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac, who helped develop the pointillist style of painting together with Georges Seurat, also created a version of the Yellow House.
His watercolor painting is called “The House of Van Gogh” and was created in 1932.
12. Van Gogh included a sketch of the work in one of his letters
Apart from writing numerous letters to his family and friends, mostly his brother Theo, he also included drawings and sketches of his works. He did the same for this painting as well.
This drawing along with the letter was auctioned at auction house Christie’s on November 5, 2013, and ended up being sold for a whopping $5,485,000 USD!
13. He created a watercolor after the work was completed
The drawing wasn’t the only spin-off of his original work, he also created a watercolor of the painting himself. This work was also executed after the painting was completed.
14. The Yellow House is on display in Amsterdam
So where can you admire The Yellow House Painting?
The painting was owned by the van Gogh family all the time and became the property of the “Vincent van Gogh Foundation” which owns multiple of his famous works.
The work is on permanent loan to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and is on public display there. It’s one of the most popular museums in the Netherlands and receives well over 2 million visitors every year!