Arts Everyday Living: Happy Birthday Vincent van Gogh! His Bedroom–A Place of Rest & Sleep?

Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom, 1889, oil on canvas, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

The Bedroom, 1889

Artist: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)


BORN: MARCH 30, 1853

In this painting, we enter one of the four rooms of Vincent’s house in Arles, namely his bedroom. In one of Vincent’s moving letters to his brother Theo, the artist writes that he wants this room to create a feeling of “rest or sleep in general” in the viewer.  A simple room atop the second story of his modest house which he rented (with his brother’s financial assistance) in the town.

The spirit of Vincent is truly everywhere. In the wooden, rough-hewn bed with red blanket, the plain, rugless floor, the sturdy wicker chairs, and the short stocky table covered neatly with the utensils of Vincent’s toilet—a brush with bristles, bottles, decanters, and an old-fashioned pitcher and bowl.

As our eye travels around the room, we feel ever closer to Vincent.  A mini-exhibition of his paintings is displayed on the wall directly over and behind his bed. Beneath what appears to be a landscape is a handmade board with pegs on which hangs the artist’s modest clothes. Also, going from right to left, is a nearly shuttered window, the casements barely touching, a black framed mirror of thick glass, and a used towel dangling unobtrusively from its hook, just adjacent to one of the room’s two doors.

And does the color blue of the wall add to our sense of relaxation?




CCO Public Domain Designation

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