Behind the Paint: ‘The bedroom at Arles’ Van Gogh
I am introducing this new category ‘Behind the paint’. I hope it will prove popular. it will be attempt to interpret popular paintings. the clues are there – it’s just a case of looking. When we go to a gallery, of course we look at the paintings and appreciate the composition, the colours the way that the artists has captured or depicted the subject. We also are aware of how the painting affects us emotionally. But we also have to bear in mind the era these paintings were painted in and the people they were painted for to set that painting in it’s context.
We know such a lot about Van Gogh and his life that every time we look at one of his paintings we think of his suffering – indeed sometimes we cannot separate them. ‘The bedroom at Arles’ was first painted in 1888 (he painted 3 versions).
This version is his third one. He painted this one for his mother. He was recovering from a nervous breakdown in an asylum in St Remy. Ten months after he painted this, the artist was dead. He committed suicide.
Van Gogh worked with thick impasto – brushstrokes are always visible. He is another painter who liked to squeeze paint directly from the tube. he got through a lot of paint – especially yellow. He liked to complete a painting in one day. Poor Theo, his brother was always being asked for money to buy more paint.
If you look around the room you will notice that there are two of nearly everything. Pillows, water jugs, bottles, chairs. It has been said that because the first version of this painting was painted whilst Van Gogh was awaiting the arrival of Gauguin, the painting can be seen as Van Gogh’s unfulfilled wish for partnership and friendship with his fellow painter. Alas, Van Gogh was in for a rude awakening regarding Gauguin. Both artists proved much to volotile to really get along.
The chair was painted yellow. Originally it was made of white wood. Van Gogh loved the colour yellow: it symbolised happiness, sunlight and warmth to him. The pictures over the bed are different in all three versions of the picture. But in this version it is easy to see Van Gogh’s self-portrait besides his sister Wil.
The original floor was a red brick colour. The last version has a sombre feel to it. He was always aware of the emotional impact of colour and expressed himself through it. The red bedspread really affects the mood of the painting – without it the picture has a completely different feel. If you cover it up you will see. Van Gogh depicts the white room in blue/violet hue creating harmonies with the greens. this The blue/violet hue of the room (which is really painted white) creates harmonies with the greens. This particularly contrasts with the bed and chairs.
The outlines are dark – a trademark of Van Gogh’s. The artist was very much influenced by Japanese wood block prints. He loved these simplified designs and their areas of flat colour – you can see these influences in his work.
The bed is a simple peasant’s bed. He loved it because it was rustic. He took this bed with him when he moved to Auvers. It was the bed he died in.
VanGogh gallery here