Homecoming

“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” Vincent Van Gogh

The Yellow House, Vincent van Gogh (Public Domain)

Welcome to May

2020 will be remembered as the year we came together as a global community to face a very difficult unknown. Without question, March and April were historic; the narrative continues to unfold in May.

I applaud the hard work and dedication of health care and essential workers. I am also grateful for the those who have stayed home, staying the course to keep our communities and loved one safe.

To commemorate this unforgettable time and to recognize we are together in spirit, ChasingART is beginning a new series that reflects our current reality of social distancing, working and studying from home, and self-isolation.

Bedroom in Arles (First Version) Vincent Van Gogh (Public Domain)

We have come home.

Over the past weeks, I have discovered that home can be many things, from a tea salon, coffee shop, restaurant, movie theatre to a meditation sanctuary, exercise room, classroom, workspace, and conference room. Home is where we create our personal space that allows us freedom to explore and find respite. It provides safety, privacy, and sense of belonging.

I invite you to join me in an exploration of how artists, over the centuries, viewed homes via their artwork. What better place to begin the journey than with Vincent Van Gogh

May 1, 1888, Vincent an Gogh rented four rooms in the right wing Yellow House, 2 Place Lamartine, Arles, France. There were two large rooms on the ground floor, one a kitchen and the other was a workshop aka atelier. In the floor above were two smaller rooms, which served as bedrooms, one for Vincent and another for his guest. This is the famous “The Yellow House”

Bedroom in Arles (Second Version) Vincent Van Gogh (Public Domain)

Vincent had a dream. He did not want to live alone in the house and believed that the ideal companion would be Paul Gauguin. In October 1888, this dream came to fruition.

Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh spent nine weeks together in the Yellow House, a shared studio that was the centre of an exhilarating and extraordinary creativity. They cooked together, shared expenses, exchanged ideas and inspired each other.

The Yellow House is no more. On June 25, 1944, the house that was shared by these two artists was severely damaged in a bombing raid by the Allies and later demolished. But the story lives on, a gentle reminder that all things pass. What remains is love, hope, resilience, belonging

Bedroom in Arles (Third Version) Vincent Van Gogh (Public Domain)

36 Replies to “Homecoming”

  1. Most excellent post, Rebecca!
    I adore your idea for the series, and I sure look forward ti the next instalment!
    The history behind these paintings is a wonderful meal, as man does not live by bread alone.
    Thank you!!!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and for your comments. If only Vincent knew how many people have been inspired by his creativity, his letters, his life. I love his thought “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” Vincent reminds me to seek the path with flowers.

  2. They certainly were an odd couple, Gauguin and van Gogh. I remember this fascinating exhibition in the van Gogh museum about the two of them in the yellow house. It was very much Vincent’s dream, which sadly Gauguin did not share. But there was a huge amount of inspiration going both ways, which resulted in some of the greatest art works.

    1. I have often wondered if Vincent had a special insight when he chose Gauguin for his “artist community.” The other question I ask myself – would I have been open to Vincent’s paintings? When Vincent wrote: “A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke” would I have been one of those passers-by? This is the thought that comes to me when I view a piece of modern art that I don’t understand. And then I take a second look with a deeper, more open approach. One day, we must meet in in the Van Gogh museum. I can only imagine how wonderful it was to attend that Van Gogh/Gauguin exhibition.

      1. Vincent admired Gauguin immensely and he had a dream which was almost like a brotherhood of likeminded artists; Gauguin was his first choice as an art brother (in Dutch it’s actually a word). Now Van Gogh was a bit peculiar and Gauguin was not the nicest, so they did not hit it off. There is an extremely touching painting called Gauguin’s Chair; it says everything about van Gogh’s expectations, abut at the same time you can see that it could have made Gauguin a bit uncomfortable. The museum is wonderful, it really brings Vincent to life.

      2. The term “art brother” is a new thought for me and one that I will be thinking about going forward. There are many connections within the art world that can be viewed as that association. Excellent! We have a date at the Van Gogh Museum – one day….

      3. I don’t know if I would have been a passer-by either. I suppose the world wasn’t ready for him in his own time.

  3. Thank you, Rebecca. In ‘The Yellow House’ which you are reading, the observation in the 12th Chapter: Aftermath (page 313): ‘In part, his painting……… tormented nature was capable,’ I think, rings true as the prime reasoning.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly! I especially appreciate this sentence “Vincent wasn’t only an inspired, mad artist; he was a great painter desperately trying to remain sane.” He lived in a world that would never understand him and used painting to keep him steady. We are the beneficiaries of his “tormented nature.” Thank you so much for adding your comment – it is a benediction to this conversation.

  4. Thank you, Rebecca, for your fascinating read on the time Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent together in Arles. Take care.

    1. I am delighted that you stopped by for a visit and that we have connected – very much appreciated. I am looking forward to our ongoing conversations. Take care and stay safe.

  5. This is so historically interesting, all of it, thank you for sharing. This must have been a happy experience for the two artists. I looked at the three versions of the paintings. I think they must have had coffee and goodies by the side of the bed. I see some dishes and this would have been a quiet place to share goodies, thoughts, ideas and spend time together. It is tragic that the Little Yellow House was destroyed (along with other precious things) during the war. I am glad you included a painting of the Yellow House. This new series will be good, I am looking forward to new experiences.

    1. This is a very creative time for the two artists. I’m not certain whether they experienced great happiness together. I think it was a deeper bonding. At the time, Vincent feared that he was going mad. I have read that Gauguin recalled a “chaotic untidiness in the (Vincent’s) studio .” During his time in Arles, Vincent produced about two hundred paintings – many becoming masterpieces. During his entire lifetime, Gauguin produced about a third of this number. I cannot comprehend this creative experience. Thank you for your comments – so very much appreciated.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond! ! I understand that many artists, so gifted in many ways have a weakness when it comes to maintaining an orderly and perfectly clean household. I guess we can forgive them; it is not important to them. I also understand that Gauguin was not an easy person to live with. I guess we all have our failures! !

      2. Ah, and that is what makes life so very interesting. From what I have read, Paul Gauguin was NOT a nice man, which has influenced my view of his paintings. The question that I ask myself – if the actions and personality of an artist contradicts my personal value system, does that decrease my liking of his/her paintings. Does a piece of art stand on merit alone?

  6. Oh, my dear Rebecca, I just love this post [surprised?] for each and every word and image you share! 🙂 Here’s to dreams… xoxoxoxo

    1. Thank you, Marina! These nine weeks were remarkable time of creativity. Two men, each with their personal demons, inspired each other. I’m reading “The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles” by Martin Gaylord. It gives great insight into Van Gogh/Gauguin connection. I believe that we find our creative spirit enhanced when we recognize the creativity of others.

      1. You are so right Rebecca. How I’d love to somehow being able to see them both in that room painting…

      2. I do too! Take a look at the painting – Paul Gauguin’s bedroom (the guest bedroom) was the window on the first floor near the corner with both shutters open. Vincent’s bedroom is behind the next window, with one shutter closed. I understand Gauguin liked the colour red and Vincent chose the colour yellow. Hugs coming your way.

  7. Rebecca, GREAT and timely idea to show how artists viewed homes in their artwork — and Van Gogh is indeed an excellent painter with whom to start. I didn’t know Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent that time together!

    The protagonist in W. Somerset Maugham’s terrific novel “The Moon and Sixpence” is partly based on Gauguin, and he seemingly was not the nicest guy — albeit a painting genius, like Van Gogh.

    Thanks for the interesting, descriptive post and images!

    1. I’m reading Martin Gayford’s “The Yellow House” which documents the nine weeks. (I have been reading it off and on for a couple of years -slow but sure). According to Martin, Gauguin had experienced near-destitution several times in the years before coming to Arles. As well, he was suffering from a “draining tropical disease.” Here is the question that I have considered since taking on my “art journey” – Does an artist’s life influence our acceptance of his/her artwork? This is especially difficult for me to answer if an artist’s lifestyle contradicts my personal values. How do we judge art? During this nine weeks, there was a stream of paintings produced by these two artists, including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers that were placed in Gauguin’s room. Ah, with art, as with writing, there are more questions than answers. And maybe that is a good thing. Thanks so much for your insights. Will be looking for “The Moon and Sixpence” – I did not know it was partly based on Gauguin.

    1. Neun Wochen. Zwei Künstler – talentiert mit schwierigen Persönlichkeiten. Unvergessliche Gemälde. Kunst ist mir weiterhin ein Rätsel. Ich bin froh, dass sie sich kennengelernt und inspiriert haben.

  8. Oh, the perfect place to start for this brilliant new project! Have you read The Yellow House by Martin Gayford? It is a book that I keep meaning to get to, and you have given me a nudge, thank you! Xxx

    1. I knew you would know Martin Gayford’s book, The Yellow House. I have been reading if off an on for a couple of years. It is filled with delicious details, even to the extent of how Vincent prepared the house for Gauguin’s arrival. This passage sets the stage: “So they were in very different states of mind, the two men who met that morning in the Yellow House, one full of renewed health and confidence, the other teetering on the edge of derangement. They had a lot of talking to do. After a while they went out, so that Gauguin – who had walked only the few yards from the station to Place Lamartine, and in the dark at that – could take a look at the town of Arles.”

      1. Wonderful – I really must promote this further up my reading pile!

      2. It is a very interesting book – I have it both in the Kindle Version and book version. I confess I need to increase the font size these days!!!! Hugs and more Hugs!

  9. Rebecca, nice to read an interesting take on the odd couple of art. The denouement of these Post-impressionists’ nine turbulent weeks together in Arles has entered into folklore.

    1. You have the most wonderful way of defining moments, Jo! Goosebumps. They were certainly an odd couple. What is most interesting is that Vincent was determined that it was Gauguin that would be the ideal companion. So “odd” is the most appropriate designation. In my wanderings, I found this passage by Gauguin reflecting on Van Gogh. Thought you would find it illuminating.

      “In my yellow room,
      Sunflowers with purple eyes stands out on a yellow background.They bath their stems in a yellow pot, on a yellow table.In a corner of the painting, the signature of the painter: Vincent.And the yellow sun that passes through the yellow curtains of my room floods all this fluorescence with gold.
      And in the morning upon awakening, from my bed,
      I imagin that all this smells very good.
      Oh yes! He loved yellow, this good Vincent, this painter from holland.Those glimmers of sunlight rekindled his soul, That abhorred the fog, that needed the warmth. When two of us were together in arles, both of us mad and at constant war over the beauty of color, me, i loved the color red,
      Where to find a perfect vermilion? He traced with his most yellow brush on the wall, Suddenly turned violet.

      Je suis saint esprit
      Je suis sain d’espri.

      Paul gauguin, 1894.”
      Paul Gauguin

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