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The Bedroom At Arles, 1888 by Van Gogh


To Van Gogh this picture was an expression of 'perfect rest', or 'sleep in general'. The bright, cheerful little room has become a field of rapid convergences, sharp angles, and contrasts of high color. The perspective vision of the walls and bed is as exciting as one of his deep landscapes, where we are carried headlong to the horizon. But in such a view with 'a rushing series of lines, furrows rising high on the canvas', Van Gogh found an expression of 'calmness, of great peace.' These surprising reactions permit us to see the spontaneous intensification of movement in his rendering of things. For his high-strung nature, the most relaxed perceptions were already charged and restless. But his feelingof repose in paintings so full of movement is also the outcome of a kind of cathartic process; by projecting movement into nature, he is relieved of tensions and wins a real peace.

In The Bedroom at Arles this movement is sustained by a delightful, inventive play of scattered objects. As we follow the converging lines of the floor and bed to an unmarked point, we come to a rival perspective system in the dark lines of the casements, of which the repeated angles occur again in a series of surrounding objects of different color and complexity: the distant chair and table, the picture wires, the ceiling corner, and the inclined pictures at the right. Together they form a free pattern of zigzags across the space, flattened and softened in the wavy lines of the bed boards.

In the color Van Gogh has played with still other competing centers of sharp contrast; the pairing of light yellow with stark vermilion, the strongest note of color in the picture; diagonally opposite, the black-framed mirror with its intense light, thebrightest tone in the entire work. These colors, unexpected, isolated notes, lie outside the prevailing luminous scheme of yellow, orange, and blue. Within that system are interesting alternations of tones - the yellow and orange of the furniture, the green and yellow of the window: these remind us of primitive pattern of color.