Van Gogh painted his first Bedroom just after moving into his beloved “Yellow House”—the first place that truly felt like home—in Arles, France, in 1888. He was very pleased with the painting and delighted that artist Paul Gauguin, who moved in a week later, admired it as well. Full of colors inspired by the theories of Neo-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat, this painting is a very faithful depiction of Van Gogh’s bedroom at the time, down to the portraits that appear on the wall. It is now in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, flooding in the Yellow House later that year caused damage to some of the artist’s canvases, including the first Bedroom. While at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh asked his brother Theo to have the painting reinforced with a lining, but Theo suggested that Van Gogh paint a copy before such a risky procedure be attempted. In early September 1889 Van Gogh finally felt he was up to the task, writing to Theo: “I’ve redone the canvas of the Bedroom. That study is certainly one of the best.” Identical in scale and yet distinct from the original, this second version is now one of the icons of the Art Institute’s permanent collection.
Three weeks after he painted the second version of The Bedroom, Van Gogh created a third on a slightly reduced scale as a gift for his mother and sister Willemien. He had decided to make small copies of some of his best works for his family to decorate their home. These were intended as gifts but more importantly as visual testaments to his progress as an artist. This third version is now at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
While the three paintings at first appear almost identical, when examined closely, each reveals distinct and unique details.
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.