Van Gogh’s Other Chair

Van Gogh’s famous yellow chair wasn’t just any chair.

Van Gogh’s Chair (1888) National Gallery, London (public domain photo)

It was his favorite chair, the one he always sat on (not very still) during his long and sometimes stormy talks with the painter Gauguin, who had come to Arles for a visit. Van Gogh painted Gauguin’s chair too.

van gogh Gauguins chair

Gauguin’s Chair by Van Gogh (1888)  in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam  (public domain photo)

The yellow one is Van Gogh happy–euphoric. The other one is Van Gogh very blue. Why?

Van Gogh had high hopes that he and Gauguin would start a community of artists, all painting happily together and discussing their art and the great issues of life. But they quarreled all the time and Gauguin decided that life with Van Gogh was impossible. Van Gogh wrote in a letter to a friend, all full of remorse for his bad behavior and already missing his friend Paul Gauguin:  “A few days before we parted, before illness forced me to enter a home, I tried to paint his empty chair.”

See Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

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5 Responses to Van Gogh’s Other Chair

  1. iondanu says:

    You talk about the bad behavior of Van Gogh’s… Well, well, let’s see…

    Was it bad behavior the fact that he did not let himself indoctrinated at Gauguin’s conceptions of art? (even if, at the begining of their shor cohabitation he did try… for instance, painting FROM MEMORY…)

    Did Vincent left his family? Did he desert his friends (as Gauguin did =exactly when vincent heed it mostly; ok, Vincent wasn’t an easy person to live with, true. But he would have never deserted his friends). By the way, the “razor” story – Vincent following Gauguin with nmurderous intentions before he cut his ear lobe – has only ONE very shabby source: Gauguin himself, 15 years after facts! The movie The Lust of Life (with Kirk douglas and Anthony Quinn)
    was based on the novel of Irwing Stone (fair enough for the time it was written but long out of date now…) made of this probable lie a unbuditable “truth”…

    Anyway, it’s a fact: most of the contemporaries condemned Gauguin for his “bad” (lousy) behavior… And him, in Tahiti and Marquises, would be considered today at least, an inconsiderate pedophile (giving his ilness, the syphilis, to his very young vahines…) Talking of “bad behaviour”…

  2. 100swallows says:

    It does take two to quarrel. Van Gogh certainly felt that he had behaved badly–that’s all I meant. I never saw that film by Stone but everyone seems to know the ear story.

  3. iondanu says:

    I understand better, now… The film I was talking about is “The Lust for life” (after the biographical novel by Irwing Stone, same name) and the director was Vincente Minelli. the film is quite old…1956… Before your time I suppose… My children do not look at a movie older than 2-3 years…

  4. Zoe says:

    Vincent was insane…Gauguin was insane in his own way; it’s hard to judge their behavior when you look at it from that standpoint. Bottom line is, they were both GREAT artists. In my experience, one cannot expect any great artist to behave either rationally or in anyone else’s best interest. They don’t behave “normally”. Just my personal experience…but i’ve known a LOT of artists.

    • 100swallows says:

      Zoe: Thanks for your comments. I have trouble with words like “insane” and “genius”, and even “artist”, which is used for too many kinds of people, right?

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