The Magic of Vincent Van Gogh's Bedrooms

Van Gogh Bedroom at Arles

Written by Emily Barasch 

When Vincent van Gogh moved into the someday-iconic “Yellow House” in Arles, France in 1888, he found a new muse: his bedroom. And it was a subject that held a special place in his oeuvre as the motif continued to resurface in his work until his death, two years later in 1890. This fascination, manifested in some of his most iconic images, is currently being explored and celebrated by the Art Institute of Chicago’s new exhibition “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms.”

The show is focused around three masterpieces, one from 1888 and two from 1889, culled from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Institute’s permanent collection, and Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, respectively. The works capture the robin’s egg walls the Dutch artist painted himself, the gold wood—subtly textured—bed, and paintings on the wall—presumably by Van Gogh and a neat self-referential touch.

Apart from Van Gogh’s characteristic use of color as well as fantastical foreshortening technique, present in the exhibit is a sense of how important home was to Van Gogh. Before moving to Arles, he had lived in more than 30 homes, 21 cities, and four countries so it’s no surprise he sought and cherished permanence. And in the context of his famous melancholy, perhaps his bedroom symbolized a personal equanimity as well.

To go alongside the exhibition, the Art Institute ingeniously recreated the bed in an apartment in Chicago’s North River neighborhood, and posted a listing on Airbnb allowing the general public to rent it out until the exhibition’s close in May. The post’s cheeky description: “I'm charging $10 for no other reason than that I need to buy paint. However, I will be happy to provide you with tickets to my exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.” (Unlike Van Gogh’s original room, the apartment also has a kitchen, bathroom, and TV in the living room.)

And even if you don’t get a chance to cozy up post-impressionist style (reservations at the Van Gogh apartment are apparently going fast), you can still check out a replica at the exhibition itself. Worth a trip to Chicago, we think.