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Two Bedrooms united in the Van Gogh Museum



Until 12 January in the anniversary exhibition Van Gogh at work

For the first time in years, two versions of Van Gogh’s The bedroom will be reunited in the Van Gogh Museum. The public’s favourite from the Van Gogh Museum collection will be exhibited next to The bedroom from The Art Institute of Chicago, an undisputed masterpiece seldom on loan. The painting was last seen in Europe in 1990, at the occasion of the major exhibition Vincent van Gogh: The Paintings in the Van Gogh Museum to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death. The Van Gogh at work exhibition, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the museum, offers the public the unique opportunity to see these two masterpieces side by side. They are the highlight of the second part of the anniversary exhibition Van Gogh at work that will run until 12 January 2014.

A drawing never exhibited before
As the Van Gogh at work exhibition will run for more than eight months, works will be exchanged. The works on paper will be exchanged for other works on paper for reasons of their sensitivity to light. This offers the public the opportunity to see rare new works. For instance, a drawing from a private collection will be shown that has never been exhibited before (Head of a boy, an early work by Van Gogh only recently recognized as being by his hand) and a large number of excellent, hardly ever exhibited drawings from the Van Gogh Museum collection.

A number of loans will also be exchanged. For instance, early September the painting The sunflowers from The National Gallery, which hung next to the version of the Van Gogh Museum during the first few months, will return to London. Special loans to be added are The drinkers (after Daumier), 1890 (The Art Institute of Chicago) and Lawn with weeping tree (private collection), both by Vincent van Gogh, and three masterpieces by Paul Gauguin from the Ordrupgaard Museum in Charlottenlund, Denmark: The wine harvest at Arles, ‘Misères humaines’, 1888; Landscape in Pont-Aven, 1888; and Blue tree, Arles, 1888.

The two Bedrooms provide insight into the way Van Gogh worked
The first version of The Bedroom belongs to the Van Gogh Museum collection. Van Gogh painted this work in his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles after weeks of continuous work and he was very satisfied with the result. He wrote to this brother that he had painted the interior deliberately ’flat’ having forgone all shadows, as with the Japanese prints he liked so much. ‘The colour must be effective here and should generally suggest rest or sleep and its simplicity should make the objects stand out. All in all, looking at this painting should make the mind feel at rest, or rather, the imagination’.

The second version, from The Art Institute of Chicago, was painted less than a year later. By that time Van Gogh stayed in the Saint-Remy asylum. He asked Theo to send him the painting so that he could make a second version of it and, by doing so, copying his own work. He had done so before; there are no fewer than five versions of the Sunflowers and also of the Berceuse. In the case of The bedroom, copying served a practical purpose: the original suffered water damage when his studio had flooded.

The Bedroom not copied indiscriminately
A comparison of both paintings offers interesting insights into Van Gogh’s working method. The two versions show that Van Gogh did not copy the painting indiscriminately, but that he made subtle changes in the use of colour and the way he painted details. Research has indicated that the painting has lost much of its original colours over the years, as a result of which the balance between the expressive and contrasting colours have become upset. For instance, the walls and doors were originally purple, rather than blue. This discolouring is the result of the fading of the red pigment in the mixed colour. The exhibition pays a great deal of attention to this interesting phenomenon that has recently been studied in full.

Van Gogh at work
In Van Gogh at work the public can see and experience how Van Gogh learned and worked and how he developed into a unique artist with an impressive oeuvre over a period of ten years. The exhibition shows circa 200 works, including 150 paintings, works on paper, letters and personal effects of the painter, such as his original sketchbooks, paint tubes and only surviving palette, from the Museé d’Orsay in Paris. The exhibition, which is the outcome of eight years of research by the Van Gogh Museum, in cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed; RCE) and Partner in Science Shell Nederland, will be open every day until 12 January 2014.


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