Thursday, February 11, 2010

Van Gogh and the Yellow House in Arles

The Yellow House (The Street) September 1888
Vincent Van Gogh
76 x 91.5cm, oil on canvas

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

One of the joys of visiting the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London is being able to see the painting of the yellow house in Arles where Van Gogh lived AND a drawing of the same painting.

The painting belongs to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the drawing is in a private collection in the USA. So this exhibition provides a rare occasion of which the two are exhibited together.

It's always interesting to see how Van Gogh makes marks to indicate the changes in form, value and colour in the drawing as compared to the painting of the same subject

The Yellow House c. 29 September 1888
Vincent Van Gogh
11.3 x 20.6cm, pen and ink on graph paper
private collection USA / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

In May 1888, Van Gogh rented four rooms on the right-hand side of a house on the Place Lamartine in Arles. His living quarters were the ones with the green shutters. His bedroom lay beyond. Vincent had finally found a place where he could not only paint but also welcome his friends. His goal was to establish a “Studio of the South,” where he and like-minded artists could work together.
Van Gogh Museum - The Yellow House 1888
The Yellow House is where Van Gogh painted his bedroom and the series of paintings of sunnflowers. Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared the yellow house for six weeks and it's where he also painted portraits of the chairs they each used

This is what Van Gogh write in his letter after he rented the house whic was situated at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles.
Ah, well — today I rented the right-hand wing of this building, which contains 4 rooms, or more precisely, two, with two little rooms.

It’s painted yellow outside, whitewashed inside — in the full sunshine. I’ve rented it for 15 francs a month. Now what I’d like to do would be to furnish a room, the one on the first floor, to be able to sleep there. The studio, the store, will remain here for the whole of the campaign here in the south, and that way I have my independence from petty squabbles over guest-houses, which are ruinous and depress me. .....I hope I’ve been lucky this time — you understand, yellow outside, white inside, right out in the sun, at last I’ll see my canvases in a really bright interior. The floor’s made of red bricks. And outside, the public garden, of which you’ll find two more drawings.

The drawings, I dare assure you, will become even better.
Letter 602 / from Vincent van gogh to Theo van Gogh 1st May 1888
I'd never realised before but the painting shows piles of sand in the street. Apparently the gas was being connected to houses in the street - which then enabled Van Gogh to paint in the evening as well. It's also clear that this is not a drawing of the painting per se as the piles of sand appear to be different.

It's possible to view its location today using Google Streetview and somebody has usefully posted a copy of the painting against a photo of the place today.

You can read about Van Gogh's time in the yellow house in Arles in a couple of highly rated books
Links to details/posts about the exhibition: