Painting: Vincent Van Gogh, Bedroom in Arles

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Van Gogh and The Representation of Happiness Through His Own Bedroom

Vincent Van Gogh, Bedroom in Arles, 1889, Oil on canvas,
currently at the De Young Museum (San Francisco),
“Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay”Exhibition.

On a smaller canvas than two other similar paintings, Vincent Van Gogh carefully painted for the third time his bedroom in Arles, a charming town in the south of France, and thus created this approximately 22 ½ x 29’’ artwork. In fact, Van Gogh made three almost identical paintings on the theme of his bedroom and are named « Bedroom in Arles ». The first one, kept at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is painted in October 1888. About a year after, Van Gogh made two copies: one of which is the same size and is preserved today at the Art Institute of Chicago. The third one is currently at De Young Museum in San Francisco (but originally belongs to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris) and is smaller than the others1.

This oil painting on a linen canvas represents Van Gogh’s tidy bedroom. Nothing lets us think that this is the room of a painter. We do not know this because he does not display his painting equipment. Nothing lies around, not even a paint tube in a corner or a brush. This bedroom seems to be for relaxation and not for his work as a painter. Here, he could finally forget his fatigue, have some comfort, sleep in peace. The bed is thus the dominant subject of the painting, suggesting the importance of comfort and rest. By painting his bedroom where everything is in its place, the painter may also want to show that he is a very neat man who cares for himself, and who organizes his life in a reasonable manner.

In addition to the prominent bed, this room exudes quietness and expresses, absolute rest by its various shades. Indeed, the room has beautiful shiny colors. In Holland, where the painter was born2, the weather is not always nice and the sky is therefore often gray....
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