Bedroom in Arles: A Detailed Look at Vincent’s Masterpiece

Bedroom in Arles is one of the many real depictions Vincent painted in his lifetime. Here’s everything you need to know about the painting.

Bedroom in Arles

As I read the inferred parts of history, I perceived that even though it fills itself with beautiful moments, it laces with the wounds and pain of unhappiness from uncertain events. Not only does history make me realise this, but the present lies in this bitter truth. And do you know which is the best place to comprehend this fact of realisation? The Art Gallery! Whether you are eccentric by Frida Kahlo’s pain, moved by Edward Munch’s mental perturbation, or shocked by Gentileschi’s extremeness, you will ultimately concede that their circumstances shaped their works, in the end. They poured their life’s most uncertain and diminishing events into the most stunning colours on canvas, such that the world is still in awe of what they accomplished. Yes, there have been enormously talented artists from the past, who were not less motivated for their life even with the harshest conditions, but one single artist who depicted his pain on canvas while displaying joy was beloved, Vincent. With his magnificent and superb colours, magnetic landscapes and brushstrokes, Vincent always showed the positive side of living. The man of golden heart was truly inspiring, and what he gave to history can never be given again in any form. Today in his pieces of memoir, we are here for learning about his other beautiful canvas, Bedroom in Arles.

General Information.

1. Artist’s Statement.

According to letter 526, Vincent wrote,

“My eyes are still tired by then I had a new idea in my head and here is the sketch of it. Another size 30 canvas. This time it’s just simply my bedroom, only here colour is to do everything, and giving by its simplification a grander style to things, is to be suggestive here of rest or sleep in general. In a word, looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.
The walls are pale violet. The floor is of red tiles.
The wood of the bed and chairs is the yellow of fresh butter and the sheets and pillows very light greenish-citron.
The coverlet scarlet. The window green.
The toilet table orange, the basin blue.
The doors lilac.
And that is all–there is nothing in this room with its closed shutters.
The broad lines of the furniture again must express inviolable rest. Portraits on the walls, .and a mirror, and a towel and some clothes.
The frame–as there is no white in the picture will be white.
This by way of revenge for the enforced rest I was obliged to take.
I shall work on it again all day, but you see how simple the conception is. The shadows and the cast shadows are suppressed; it is painted in free flat tints like the Japanese print.”

2. Subject Matter.

The composition portrays Vincent’s bedroom in Arles. The subject matter of the illustration includes a bed, table, chairs, a window and a few portraits on the wall.

3. Artist.

Vincent van Gogh painted Bedroom in Arles. He was one of the greatest post-impressionist artists, forming his own style with bright colours and short brush strokes.

4. Versions.

Vincent produced five versions of the painting, Bedroom in Arles- three in oils and two letter sketches. A single original version of the painting exists, as the two others were copies created by Van Gogh, and two sketch-painting were from his brother’s letter.

The bedroom series of Van Gogh displays his house in Arles, which not only served his home but a connection to Gauguin, where he lived with him and shared his art studio. All three versions of the paintings are somehow different from each other. For instance, in the original version, Vincent displayed two of his favourite portraits hung on the wall, whereas in another version, he included a self-portrait which shows him healthy and vigorous despite his internment at Saint-Remy.

5. Date and Dimensions.

The Amsterdam version of the artwork dates back to October 1888, which is 72 x 90 cm. Others include- the Chicago Version- Dating back to September 1889, with size measurements of 73 x 92 cm and the Paris version- From the same period, September 1889, with canvas 56.5 x 74 cm.

Additionally, there are two sketches of the painting- one from letter 554 and another from letter B22.

6. Location.

To make the information accessible in clear terms, let me give you a table of the five versions with the location.

The Original Version (October 1888)​Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam
Second Version (September 1889)The Art Institute of Chicago Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection
Third Version (September 1889)​Musee d’Orsay, Paris
Letter 554 Version​Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam
Letter B22 VersionPrivate Collection

7. Provenance.

If we look back in history, Vincent painted the original version of the Bedroom in Arles in mid-October 1888. He described the composition in one entire letter to his brother Theo and Gauguin, where he produced small sketches of his illustration to give them an idea of what it looked like. The time frame goes back to his time spent in Arles, where he produced the original version after he felt the bedroom was home to him. The other two versions are from his stay in Mental Asylum in the September of next year, 1889.

8. Technique and Medium.

Three of the paintings were oil on canvas with a post-impressionist style. Vincent used bright and bold colours to give a vibrant illustration.

Now that you know a brief introduction to the canvas, let me take you to the detailed analysis of the painting, where we will be covering each of its aspects.

ArtistVincent van Gogh
Year PaintedAmsterdam, October 1888; Chicago and Paris Version, September 1889;
MediumOil on canvas
GenreStill Life
DimensionsAmsterdam, 72 x 90 cm; Chicago, 73 x 92 cm; and Paris Version, 56.5 x 74 cm
PricePriceless, Not on Sale

Bedroom in Arles | Fast Knowledge

Bedroom in Arles is one of the Still Life by Dutch Artist Vincent van Gogh, with the primary subject being the artist’s room in the Yellow House, Arles. Representing the intimacy and domesticity of his bedroom, Vincent differentiated it with harmonious colors and exaggerated lines, a change that he adored and referred to as “where the painting begins.”

Describing Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles in Detail.

About the Artist: Vincent van Gogh.

Born on 30 March 1859 in Zundert, Dutch, Vincent was the son of Anna van Gogh and protestant clergyman Theodorus van Gogh. In my previous article on Sunflowers and Cafe Terrace at Night, I showed you his life in a few words. However, there is much more to learn about it. For instance, his career started in 1869 when he joined as an international art dealer in Goupil & Co, but it was also the time when he was deeply immersed in the Bible and arts. After getting dismissed from his first job due to his sudden vanishing at home in the hot selling season, he worked as a teacher at the Boarding school. It was only in August 1880 that he finally decided to be an artist. So to prepare himself, he started copying drawings and reproductions of Jean-Francois Millet, a painter of peasant life. He did not get any professional training for learning arts, yet only his exploration of artistry made him understand the basics of post-impressionism. After seeing the works of Claude Monet when he stayed in Paris with his brother Theo, he immediately started playing melodiously with colours on canvas to show off landscapes to the best of his ability.

Self-Portrait with Pipe Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait with Pipe | Source: Van Gogh Museum

The fact that he isn’t just an artist, but an inspiration who has such giant wings that we can’t encompass in a few sentences or even a book is one of the many reasons why I can’t sum up his life in a few words. However, I need you to know that his stay in Arles was the most productive phase of his entire career. The mental asylum was also among the places where he drew some incredible and superb works, one among them, is Bedroom in Arles. Despite his financial hardships, torments, and sufferings, he depicted the shining light within him in his works of art.

As you now know a little bit about our artist, let me tell you more about how the artwork came to be.

History and Background of the Painting.

In February 1888, Vincent moved to Arles from Paris, as he wanted to live in some peaceful place, where he could get a dutch landscape. And in the same year of may, he rented a house called the Yellow House, where he created great artworks. Vincent after moving to Arles, started writing letters to his friend, Gauguin, to persuade him to come to Arles to form a studio together. And after many months of his insisting, Gauguin agreed.

However, the Yellow House, he took on rent had no furniture, so he decided to paint artwork to decorate it. Hence, he made some of the best works during this time.

The Yellow House by Vincent van Gogh
The Yellow House by Vincent van Gogh | Source: Van Gogh Museum

In the same year of October, he painted a neat and tidy bedroom with an interior without anything, which became one of his most successful works, Bedroom in Arles. He devoted an entire letter to describing the canvas. We already saw it in the artist’s words section.

Additionally, he included small sketches of his work, which he gave to Theo and Gauguin. After Gauguin came on 23rd October, everything went well for some time. During 1880-90, Vincent produced more than 200 paintings.

However, after some time, Vincent and Gauguin’s friendship began to torment, and following December, they had a violent dispute, where Vincent mutilated his ear. And at this time, Gauguin left the place.

When Vincent first witnessed the signs of his illness and the departure of Gauguin from Arles, his optimism lost into thin layers. In the first few months of the new year 1889, he did no good to create his paintings into a mature form. After the prolonged symptoms, he decided in late April to admit himself to the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole. It was the last phase of his life when he drew some of the terrific compositions after Arles in his lifetime. The first results were Avenue with Flowering Chestnuts, View of Arles and Dormitory in the Hospital.

When he arrived in early May 1889 in Saint Remy, he was initially following a traditional path with paintings- Lilies and Trees with Ivy. However, after he heard that his friends were organising an exhibition in the Parisian Cafe Volpini to complete the World exhibition, he wanted to create some artwork for the occasion, but Theo declined his invitation. Albeit Vincent was highly disappointed, he got inspired by his fellow artists and strived to create works with highly stylised effects and exaggerated lines. From the letter 607, he explained,

“where the lines are close together and accentuated, that is where the painting begins.”

During the time he stayed in the Saint-Remy, he modestly believed to create replicas of his best works from Arles. Hence in September of 1889, he made other two versions of the Bedroom in Arles to send to his mother and sister.

This way, we know the provenance of all three painting versions of Bedroom in Arles.

Learning the Meaning of the Artwork.

In a harmonious juxtaposition of the various fields of colour, the painting depicts the intimacy and domesticity of a bedroom. Vincent compared his original Bedroom in Arles painting with his Romans parisiens from 1887 and concluded that he had painted with an impacting style and better craftsmanship ever since then. He wrote,

“I think the workmanship is more virile and simple. No stripping, no hatching, nothing, only flat colours in harmony.”

The painting depicts how much Vincent’s new home meant to him and how his deliberately simple furnishing and simplicity impressed him. With this artwork, he displayed comfort and security in his bedroom. Using a wooden bed, he implies a feeling of solidity and tranquillity, according to his letter 534. Vincent stressed the meaning of human needs in the painting in form of warmth and an atmosphere for companionship and stable family life. The message behind the illustration is about the development of the original sentiment of care, warmth and a loving atmosphere within a family. Briefly, Van Gogh Bedroom in Arles is a place of refuge after his work, and that’s he portrayed it in the best form.

The Subject Matter of the Composition.

The subject matter of the painting includes a bed, table and two chairs. However, there are other elements in the painting as well. For instance, a window, a towel, a few glasses over a table, pictures on the wall, open cloth storage, and a half door completes the artwork. We will take the subject matter analysis of the original version first and then look at the contrasting effects of the two other coloured versions.

Original Version of Bedroom in Arles by Van Gogh
Original Version of Bedroom in Arles | Source: Van Gogh Museum

1. The Wooden Bed.

The bed showcases a warmer contrast of yellowish-brown wood, indicating rigidity, tranquillity and security, as Vincent thought. Further, there is a bright red coloured mattress complimenting the entire space. It has a warm and cosy aura which Vincent always considered his home perfect for a family and warmth.

Bed subject matter of Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh
Bed in the Bedroom in Arles painting | Source: Van Gogh Museum

2. Chair.

Both the chair stood sideways, one near the bed, and the other against the wall, showcasing the easiness and simplicity of the bedroom. There is an uncompromising cosiness through these chairs without putting much effort into keeping them arranged delightfully.

Chair subject matter of Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh
Chair and Table in the Bedroom in Arles painting | Source: Van Gogh Museum

3. Table.

The table is extraordinarily-simple with few glass artefacts over it. Over the table, you can see a mirror hung and a green-coloured window with connectivity for an artist to stare at and enjoy taking window scenery.

4. Portraits.

The composition features- a portrait of Eugène Boch, named The Poet, and Paul-Eugène Milliet, The Lover. And in the second and third versions, Vincent used different combinations of a self-portrait and a portrait of an unknown woman.

Portraits on wall subject matter of Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh
Portraits of Eugène Boch and Paul-Eugène Milliet on wall | Source: Van Gogh Museum
Portraits on wall subject matter of second version of Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh
Self Portrait and Portrait of an Unknown Woman on the wall (Second Version) | Source: Van Gogh Museum
Portraits on wall subject matter of second version of Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh (Third Version)
Self Portrait and Portrait of an Unknown Man on the wall (Third Version) | Source: Van Gogh Museum

In the painting, a few things complete the artwork, like towel hung, open cloth hooks, and purple-coloured doors. The other two versions did not have much difference except for the portraits hung over the wall and the colours used, which we will see in a later section.

Formal Analysis of Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh.

1. Line.

The easiest thing in the composition is to figure out the lines. If you see a single glance, there is a thicker outline of the subject, which is regular and strong. Further, there is enough space for each subject, which does not fuse them and gives them a distinctive look. The flooring and even the vertical lines of the bed give a perspective to the illustration.

2. Shape.

In this painting, most of the beds, pictures, tables, chairs, windows, and doors are in geometric shapes. The bed cover, pillows, clothes hanging behind the bed, and towel hanging on the left side of the bed all feature organic shapes. By doing so, a subtle contrast is created in shape, while still maintaining the rigidity of the design.

Vincent van Gogh Bedroom in Arles Shapes Analysis
Shapes of Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles (Note that the colours of the image are edited by the author and are not accurate to the painting, like shown before) | Source: Draw Paint Academy

Additionally, rigid shapes highlight how awkward the perspective is in the painting. Despite its inaccuracy, this seems to contribute to the overall appeal of the composition.

3. Perspective.

It is probably the peculiar perspective of the painting that makes it stand out among other paintings. In the painting, the subject matter is skewed downward toward the viewer, creating an unrealistic representation of the bedroom. It is this feature that makes the painting so distinctive and recognizable. Despite the extreme perspective, Van Gogh, later in his career, broke free from the constraints of the perspective frame, which dictated a precise and realistic approach to the perspective of work. He was not only rebelling against the muted colours of the Dutch artists of the time but also the appropriate perspective. If you look closer at the painting, you will see that the composition has a viewer from the leftmost corner.

4. Colours.

Vincent used a bold combination of complementary colours (red and green, yellow and violet and blue and orange) in the three versions of the painting. Further, he added black and white to them, which he regarded as the fourth pair. He neglected the colour white in the picture, which according to him, was the reason for softening the overwhelming effect of pronounced colours. The use of colours shows the oversimplification of the new home of Vincent.

Opinions and Conclusions.

The painting, Bedroom in Arles, is certainly a masterpiece by our beloves artist. It is not only about the masterstrokes and colours but about the comfort, cosiness and the delightful atmosphere of imperfect furnishing, which fill the bedroom with warmth and beauty. Reading and learning about Vincent’s artwork aren’t enough, and perhaps, this is why we can’t help but fall in love with him throughout eternity. If there is any chance to relive the moments of the Van Gogh Bedroom in Arles, then it’s exploring all those bright colours on the canvas.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Who painted the Bedroom in Arles?

Vincent van Gogh, the French post-impressionist painter, created the Bedroom in Arles to portray his rented bedroom in Arles, France. The painting is a neat and simplistic depiction of the bedroom, portraying how much Vincent adored its simplicity, what felt like harmony to him.

When was the Bedroom in Arles painted?

There are five versions of the Bedroom in Arles painted at different times. However, Vincent painted the original artwork in 1888.

What is the story behind Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles?

After visiting and living in cities like Paris, Vincent desired to live somewhere that enjoyed the Dutch landscape views, so moved to Arles. While living there, he rented the Yellow House and painted numerous artworks for decorating its interiors one of which was the Bedroom in Arles. The painting showcases the simplistic interiors of the bedroom and shows how much Vincent loved living there and adored its simplicity, as well as found peace after working all day.

What type of art is Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh?

Oil on canvas, Post-Impressionist Art.


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