Gauguin’s chair, 1888

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 90.5 x 72.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)
  • F 499

It is evening or nighttime. The central object in this painting is a chair of dark brown wood, with curved backrests and an upholstered seat, upon which books lie. The space is illuminated by gaslight. With great sureness of touch, Van Gogh painted the blue shadows and reflections thrown by the lamplight onto the shining wood of the chair. This painting of his friend’s chair was made in November 1888, when Gauguin was staying with Van Gogh in the so-called Yellow House.

More information about "Gauguin’s chair"

The chair reveals its owner

Empty chairs are often seen as the personification of the people who own them, Van Gogh may have thought as he painted this canvas. Personal possessions, – in this case Gauguin’s – are used to characterize or ‘portray’ the owner. In the same period, Van Gogh also made a painting of his own empty chair, now in the National Gallery, London. This shows the same plain chair with a wickerwork seat that we see in The Bedroom. The simple chair, the sober room and the daytime light are all typical of Van Gogh’s simple, realistic approach.

Counterpart

Van Gogh’s ‘portrait’ of Gauguin’s chair is literally a counterpart or pendant to his own.. This chair is more elegant, the room is more luxurious and is painted by artificial light. The modern French novels on the seat, identified by their yellow and faded-pink covers, could be signs of modernity or the fruits of intellectual labor. Van Gogh thus seems to characterize his colleague as a modern and intelligent artist.

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