Behind the paint ‘A Tale of Two Chairs’
I’ve just put a poem on my other blog Bookstains, using Vincent Van Gogh‘s very famous chair to illustrate it. A recent (virtual) trip to the Van Gogh Museum (see this post) gave me the opportunity of seeing his paintings up close. I have seen Van Gogh’s chair before in The National Gallery London – however, this isn’t the only chair the artist painted.
When Van Gogh’s hero Gauguin stayed with him at the Yellow House in Arles, the artists initially did get on with each other. All this was to change though. Van Gogh painted two chair picures – his own chair and Gauguin’s (Gauguin’s being in the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.) The chairs embody the differences between the two artists temperaments and approaches to art.
Van Gogh has painted Gauguin’s more comfier stylish chair and placed it upon a carpet of flowers. A candle illuminates some books which lie there: the green wall behind it is lit by a blazing lamp. Van Gogh’s own yellow chair sits in the kitchen on old brown kitchen tiles. A box of onions lie in the background and the blue door in the picture is shut. Upon this battered high-backed chair with its stout uneven legs, lies a pipe and some tobacco wrapped in a scrap of crumpled paper.
The empty chairs show the artists having left them of course – even perhaps to have departed from this earth. The contrasts between the chairs do seem to illustrate the differences between the artists (from Van Gogh’s viewpoint). Van Gogh more attuned to the ethics of the hard working peasants and Gauguin more worldly and sophisticated. What is known is that Van Gogh, who liked English graphic art was inspired by an image which he saw in a Victorian Magazine The Graphic by Luke Fildes ‘The Empty Chair, Gad’s Hill’ in 1870, the year Charles Dickens died.
The paintings also acts as a reminder of that fateful night in 1888 when Van Gogh and Gauguin’s relationship finally reached breaking point, culminating in him threatening Gauguin with a razor (the latter wisely decided to stay at a local hotel that night) and Van Gogh proffered his severed ear lobe to a prostitute.
Google art Project – Virtual trips around 17 famous museums here
Lots of information about these two paintings here
Van Gogh Images from here
Luke Fildes image from here