After a manic two-year burst of creativity in which he painted over two hundred works, in February 1888, a 35-year-old Van Gogh moved from Paris to a small yellow house at Arles and rented four rooms for fifteen franks a month hoping one day to turn them into an artist’s colony. Gauguin arrived in October but the colony never happened. According to the official record, suffering from a severe mental attack, probably epilepsy, Van Gogh allegedly attacked Gauguin with a razor on December 23. Gauguin fled, spending the night in a hotel. Later that night, Van Gogh famously presented a local prostitute with a generous chunk of ear.
But in the tranquil Bedroom at Arles, painted in October 1888, the artist presents nothing but absolute serenity and calm. Writing to his brother, Van Gogh stated that he purposely omitted any shadows. He did not want any darkness to violate this cozy little haven. Water damaged the original painting, now in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, shortly after its creation. But Van Gogh made three versions. One, probably painted for his parents, resides in Paris’ Musée d’Orsay. In an exhibit sponsored by Talmer Bank and Trust, the Orsay Bedroom now hangs in the Detroit Institute of Arts alongside three other Van Goghs from the DIA’s collection.
This exhibition pairs the work alongside The Diggers, painted after Jean-Francois Millet’s original, The Portrait of the Postman Roulin, also painted in this house at Arles, and his Self Portrait, which predates the Arles Bedroom by a few months. Free of charge, this wonderfully intimate, one-room exhibition hangs until May 28.