Restoration of The bedroom is completed

Results of the restoration on display until 19 September in Bedroom secrets presentation

3 September 2010

The bedroom, one of Vincent van Gogh’s best loved works, has undergone detailed restoration over the last six months. The presentation Bedroom secrets explains the results and the process of restoration. For example, traces have been found that show that the walls in the room were originally lilac in colour, rather than blue. The removal of the yellowed layer of varnish has also brought to light a number of fascinating details: light can be seen entering the room through the slightly opened shutters and traces of newsprint have been discovered on the red bedspread and on the bed.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), The bedroom, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)Results
In recent months, The bedroom has undergone painstaking restoration. The process proved to be a veritable voyage of discovery for the restorer. After removal of the old and discoloured layers of varnish and retouching work, the result is a painting with crisp and intensely bright colours. Even areas of colour emerged, returning the feeling of restfulness to The bedroom that Van Gogh had originally intended. In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote: “but the colour has to do the job here, and through its being simplified by giving a grander style to things, to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In short, looking at the painting should rest the mind, or rather, the imagination.” In a letter to Paul Gauguin he writes “I had wished to express utter repose with all these different tones”.

The restoration also revealed that certain colours in the painting have been irrevocably changed. Around the edges of the painting and underneath previous filling and retouching work, traces of the original colours were discovered. These have retained their colour because they were less exposed to daylight. For example, the walls and doors were originally lilac in colour, a fact that Van Gogh also mentions in his letters. Traces have now been found during restoration that confirm this to be true. In the future, the Van Gogh Museum intends to conduct further research into the discoloration of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings.

The removal of the layer of varnish has brought to light a number of fascinating details.
For example, light entering the room through the slightly opened shutters can now be seen on the floor. In the red bedspread and on the bed and chairs, traces of newsprint have been found. Even during Van Gogh’s life, the painting became damaged by damp in his studio. To prevent the paint from flaking, Van Gogh stuck newspapers over the canvas and intended to have his brother Theo line the work (adhere a new canvas onto the reverse) to reinforce it. Research on the painting showed that this was indeed done and that the painting was relined again and extensively restored in 1931. It also emerged that during the 1931 restoration a small strip of the painting was folded over the left side of the  stretcher, making it hard to read the clearly open door originally painted by Van Gogh.

In recent months, it has been possible to follow the restoration on the blog The completion of the restoration also features in the blog.

From 1 October 2010, the painting will be in Japan for the exhibition Van Gogh: The adventure of becoming an artist, which is curated by both the Van Gogh Museum and the Kröller-Müller Museum.

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