Chicago Part 2
With Becca and Collins we headed to the Art Institute of Chicago where they had an exhibit entitled:
Presented only at the Art Institute, this exhibition was the first dedicated to the artist’s three “Bedroom” paintings, and presented an in-depth study of their making and meaning to Van Gogh. The exhibit featured 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. It was an innovative yet intimate look at one of the most beloved and often-misunderstood artists of all time.
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.
I enjoyed the study between the three paintings
In the three Bedrooms, the different treatments of the chairs are not inconsequential. For each version, Van Gogh used at least two distinct shades of yellow for the frames of the chairs, and he painted outlines to reinforce their structures. The first version is painted in mostly flat tints except for the back of the chair, which the artist first painted with a light-green layer and contrasting bright-blue outlines.
In contrast, the second and third versions are depicted with more textural brushwork. Especially when you look at their seats, you can see the impasto, or thick application of paint, in contrasting colors—reflecting the more expressive style Van Gogh developed in Saint-Rémy.
A picture is worth a thousands words—an adage that rings true of these pictures within pictures. One of the more noticeable changes among the three different versions are the portraits that hang above the bed, clear indicators of Van Gogh’s state of his mind—his early hope when he painted the first version and his decidedly less optimistic view 11 months later when he painted the second and third versions.
In the first Bedroom, Van Gogh—full of excitement at just having moved into his Yellow House—faithfully recorded the portraits that hung on the wall of his new bedroom; one is of Eugène Boch and the other is Lieutenant Paul-Eugène Milliet. The artist hoped to develop a community of artists in Arles, and these portraits embody the spirit of camaraderie he hoped would fill his home.
Painted after a mental breakdown and the shattering of his “Studio of the South” dream, the second and third versions pair self-portraits with imagined portraits of unidentified women. Together the images may represent the domestic pairing that the artist had once sought but now considered impossible to obtain.
TO SEE MORE:
- Other works by Van Gogh we saw at the exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago:
Bob in Van Gogh’s bedroom
We stayed at the University Club of Chicago again and I must say I enjoy the charm…plus it is practically across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago.
AND just look at the berries I had for breakfast at the University Club
Becca and I also discovered a fun new little shop called POSH
- I loved their vintage hotel flatware and vintage place settings