“The Bedroom in Arles” (or “Vincent’s Bedroom”) is the title of three oil paintings and two drawings by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
The first sketches date from 1888, when the artist moved into his first own home, the so-called “Yellow House”. Originally he planned to establish an artists’ colony here, where artists could stay and support each other, but apart from Paul Gauguin (who soon left the house in a dispute) no one could warm to this plan.
When van Gogh moved into the house in September 1888, he set about decorating it according to his wishes, creating a series of canvases to decorate the walls.
Totally exhausted by this task, he was confined to bed for several days, but unlike his body, his restless spirit found no rest – his bedroom, hitherto little noticed, was to form the basis of his next work.
In a letter to his brother Theo he wrote about this project and also sent him a first sketch.
“My eyes are still tired, I already had a new idea in my head, and here is the sketch for it … This time it is simply my bedroom, but the colour is supposed to do everything here and give things a greater expression through its simplification. It should remind me of rest or sleep in general. In other words, the view of the picture should put the brain, or rather the imagination, to rest.”
Contrary to the original intention (the painting was supposed to represent relaxation and calm) van Gogh’s personality finally asserted itself again and the canvas seems to vibrate with nervous energy.
This effect is caused, among other things, by the fact that van Gogh applied the colours in thick layers and sharply delineated the objects with striking strokes.
In addition, van Gogh chose an unusual perspective, which further intensifies the impression of restlessness.
Vincent van Gogh seems to have appreciated this pictorial motif very much, as we have three different versions of it today. One is in the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the second (the version in the picture above) is in the Art Institute of Chicago and an almost identical one (which the artist painted for his mother and sister) is now in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
It is interesting that van Gogh always wrote of the main colour violet (purple) in his letters. This is worth mentioning because today the walls appear blue to light blue.
Therefore a team from the Art Institute of Chicago examined the blue color particles of the painting and discovered after turning them over that their backs were still purple. This result was also observed in the other two versions of the painting.
It is assumed that the colors of his paintings have not only faded, but above all the violet changed to a blue due to UV radiation and LED lights.
An effect that has already been described in 2013: namely that in various paintings van Gogh’s favourite yellow had changed to brown and green tones.