The yellow house ('The street'), 1888

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 72 X 91.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 464

This painting is on view in the exhibition Colours of the North, Colours of the South in Arles until 1 September 2014.

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.

Just as he did in Nuenen and Paris, Van Gogh here depicts his own surroundings. To the left we see the restaurant where he usually took his meals. His friend, the postman Joseph Roulin, lived to the right, behind the first railroad bridge.

The view is also an exploration of color contrast: “What a powerful sight, those yellow houses in the sun and then the unforgettable clarity of the blue [sky],” he wrote to Theo in the letter that accompanied a drawing he had made after the painting.

More information about "The yellow house ('The street')"

Modern Life

This painting , which Van Gogh himself called “La Rue” (“The Street”), once again demonstrates the artist’s interest in everyday life. That the central image is bracketed by a lamppost (left) and a railroad bridge (right) is certainly no accident. For many artists, gaslight and the steam engine – both inventions of the 19th century – were the quintessential symbols of modernity. Van Gogh, too, regularly depicted rapidly expanding suburbs, streetlights and trains.

A puzzling element in the picture are the elongated mounds of earth in the foreground. It is possible that gas pipes were being laid for private households at just the time Vincent made his painting. We know he used this new energy source to paint at night, by gaslight.

Once he had moved in and acquired the necessary furniture, Van Gogh set about decorating the Yellow House. Among other things, he hung the rooms with his own paintings of sunflowers.

Leo Jansen on 'The yellow house'

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