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At home with art

Timing it with a new exhibition, you can actually check in to a Van Gogh bedroom

Then and now: (left) The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh; and his room in Arles reconstructed in Chicago. Photo: AFP<br />
Then and now: (left) The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh; and his room in Arles reconstructed in Chicago. Photo: AFP

Vincent is renting out his chambre on Airbnb for just $10 (around 685) a night, because he needs to buy paint.

In 1888, Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter extraordinaire, moved into the house on 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, in the Provence region of southern France. The house became the subject of one of Van Gogh’s most enduring paintings, The Yellow House. Van Gogh was enamoured of this house, which he thought was the ideal place to create his dream “Studio of the South", an artists’ retreat where like-minded painters could live and work together. He had even invited his close friend, the French artist Paul Gauguin; it was a short-lived stay marked with excessive tension, which culminated in Van Gogh severing a part of his own ear.

It was not just the yellow house that Van Gogh chose to immortalize on canvas. His bedroom in it was the subject of not one but three paintings which now hang in different museums. He first painted The Bedroom in October 1888; that is now displayed in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This painting was partially damaged when his home flooded, prompting Van Gogh to make two copies of the painting in 1889—one the same size as the original, which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), and the smaller one that he painted for his mother and sister, which is now on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

When Van Gogh painted the first version of The Bedroom, he intended it to be suggestive of rest or sleep. As he wrote to his brother Theo, in a letter accompanying the painting, “Looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination." Van Gogh’s letter went on to describe the painting in lush tones, with particular emphasis on the colours—the lilac door, the pale violet walls, the green window, the red-tiled floor, the wooden bed and chairs in “the yellow of fresh butter", the sheets “a very light greenish-citron", the scarlet coverlet, the orange toilet table with a blue basin atop it.

That room in Arles has now been faithfully recreated by the AIC in Chicago, to draw attention to an exhibition of the works. Located in Chicago’s chic and arty River North district, the “room" is available to rent on for only $10. The listing promises that it is “decorated in a post-Impressionist style reminiscent of southern France and times gone by". Two people can sleep in the room, which comes with an attached bathroom with toiletries—you don’t have to try washing yourself at the toilet table with merely a jug and basin!

The room is also equipped with air-conditioning, a TV and Wi-Fi, and has an impressive view of the Chicago skyline. The rent includes tickets to the AIC exhibition, Van Gogh’s Bedrooms.

The paintings of The Bedroom and The Yellow House reflect the optimism and tranquillity that Van Gogh felt in Arles. He found the light beautiful and inspiring, “the yellow houses under a sulphur sun, under a pure cobalt sky", as he wrote to Theo. He produced 187 paintings in Arles, including some of his best works—Sunflowers, The Starry Night, The Night Café, Harvest At La Crau, and more. In a nomadic life—he lived in 37 different residences across 24 cities—the house in Arles was the only place he felt at home: The haven motif is quite prominent in his paintings from this period.

Though Van Gogh is today known as one of the most influential post-Impressionist artists, his brief career was not very successful—he managed to sell only one painting. He lived in poverty, swinging between fits of madness and lucidity. Whatever money he had was courtesy the generous Theo—money that Van Gogh used primarily for art supplies, much like “Vincent" might have rented his room to buy paint.

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms will run at the Art Institute of Chicago till 10 May. For updates and booking information, visit

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