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Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles is arguably the most famous chambre in the history of art. It also held special significance for the artist, who created three distinct paintings of this intimate space from 1888 to 1889. This exhibition—presented only at the Art Institute of Chicago—brings together all three versions of The Bedroom for the first time in North America, offering a pioneering and in-depth study of their making and meaning to Van Gogh in his relentless quest for home.
Van Gogh’s life was short and nomadic. By the time he died, at the age of 37, he had lived in 37 separate residences across 24 cities, mostly as a boarder or a guest dependent on the hospitality of family or friends. In 1888, he finally moved into the only home he truly considered his own: his beloved “Yellow House” in Arles. Of his many bedrooms, Van Gogh immortalized only the one from the Yellow House—three times in fact. He first painted the room in 1888 shortly after his move to the Arles and then painted the composition twice more in 1889: once to record the first version that had been damaged when his home flooded and then again as a gift for his mother and sister.
This exhibition is the first to truly delve into the fascinating history of these three paintings and explore the motif of home and its significance to Van Gogh—as haven, creative chamber, and physical reality. The show features approximately 36 works by the artist, including paintings, drawings, and illustrated letters, as well as a selection of books and other ephemera known to have been in Van Gogh’s possession. Enhancing the exploration of the artist’s works and his longing for home are several engaging interactive presentations. A digitally enhanced reconstruction of his bedroom allows viewers the chance to experience his state of mind and the physical reality of the space that so inspired him, while other enriching digital components bring to light significant recent scientific research on the three Bedroom paintings. The result is an innovative yet intimate look at one of the most beloved and often-misunderstood artists of all time.
Lead support has been provided by the Estate of Jacquet McConville.
Major support has been generously provided by Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; the Gilchrist Foundation; The Morris and Dolores Kohl Kaplan Fund; and Evonne and John Yonover.
Additional funding has been contributed by Constance and David Coolidge, the Mason Foundation, Charlene and Mark Novak, and the Comer Family Foundation.
Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Kenneth Griffin, Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, Betsy Bergman Rosenfield and Andrew M. Rosenfield, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, and the Woman’s Board.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.