Impressionist & Modern Art

A Night in Van Gogh’s Bedroom

By Emily Markert

CHICAGO – The popularity of Van Gogh’s Bedrooms at The Art Institute of Chicago this season comes as no surprise, as it blends familiarity and rarity by bringing the three versions of The Bedroom, Van Gogh’s famed 1888–89 depiction of his bedroom in Arles together for the first time. Since opening in February, the show has drawn many more visitors than expected eager to see versions of the painting from the Musée d’Orsay and the Van Gogh Museum alongside the Art Institute’s own canvas. Must-see exhibitions can be daunting for exactly this reason: the crowds. But last week, Preferred was able to access the museum after hours for a private tour led by esteemed curator Gloria Groom.


One could spend hours considering the significance of Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings and the period of the artist’s life during which he painted them. But upon arrival in the climactic room of the exhibition, where the three works hang side-by-side – a major feat of museum loan requests – Ms Groom’s comments made it clear that the information in this gallery was the key, including the visualization and video playing in the adjacent space. Even avid museumgoers like me can experience exhibition fatigue and skip informational videos or interactive screens, but I implore anyone who might walk by these presentations to reconsider on this case. Ms Groom elucidated the significance of the detailed research done on the three pictures, drawing our attention to a slideshow of comparative images that highlight just how different the brushwork, colours and even shapes and objects depicted in the seemingly identical paintings really are. In fact, she explained that prior to examining the water damage on the versions, it was not clear which came first. This is especially significant when one considers that Van Gogh painted the second bedroom image not by repainting his room, but rather copying his first painting.


The unprecedented union of these three works allowed Ms Groom and numerous researchers to uncover new information about the iconic image, even when people might assume there is no new information to learn. “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” provides a beautiful example of ways in which technology can help us look at and understand art and artists, even such household names as Van Gogh and as universally recognizable a scene as his Yellow House bedroom.

After the tour, Preferred members traveled to the nearby Seven Lions restaurant for an intimate dinner celebrating the unique occasion of this union. The menu included French, Dutch and Chicago-themed dishes, representing each of the bedroom paintings’ permanent homes – especially exciting considering each museum is a Preferred partner: the Musee D’Orsay, the Van Gogh Museum and The Art Institute.


Follow Emily as she brings Sotheby’s Preferred museum, art fair and private collection access to you. #SothebysPreferred 

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