Van Gogh in
The yellow house
Place Lamartine 2
Place Lamartine still exists, but the Yellow House was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.
Van Gogh in
The yellow house
On 1 May 1889, Vincent rented part of a yellow stucco faced building on the Place Lamartine in Arles at a rate of 15 francs per month. Initially using it as a studio, he began living there too on 1 September. Vincent nicknamed the building the Yellow House and planned to abundantly decorate its interior with his own paintings.
Vincent hoped to turn the house into a “Studio of the South” where artists could live and work together. He needed company and a sounding board, and living with others was also more economical. Using finances given by his brother Theo, Vincent had new furniture made – two beds, chairs and a table – and had the house connected to the gas supply so he could work by artificial light in winter and in the evenings. To decorate the house, he painted a number of works, including four sunflower compositions, The Public Garden with a couple strolling, The Tarascon Stagecoach, The Night Café, The Yellow House (“The Street”), Starry Night over the Rhône and The Trinquetaille bridge.
The ground floor of the Yellow House featured a simple studio and a kitchen. Upstairs were two more rooms: Vincent’s bedroom and one for the artists he intended to host at the “Studio of the South”.
Vincent invited Paul Gauguin, whom he had befriended in Paris, for a visit, and Gauguin arrived on 23 October. They initially lived and worked together in harmony but their respective personalities and divergent ideas about art soon strained the relationship. On 23 December, tensions ran so high that in a fit of madness Vincent cut off part of his ear and handed it to a prostitute. Gauguin returned to Paris two days later. Vincent was admitted to hospital and discharged in early January. In February, however, he suffered another breakdown. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood residents were in revolt: they considered Vincent dangerous and sought to have him sent to a psychiatric asylum in Marseille or Aix-en-Provence. Their demands were not met but Vincent was sent back to the Arles hospital. During his third stay there, he wrote to his brother:
“I write to you in full possession of my presence of mind and not like a madman but as the brother you know. Here is the truth: a certain number of people from here have addressed a petition (there were more than 80 signatures on it) to the mayor […] designating me as a man not worthy of living at liberty, or something like that.” Read the complete letter
Vincent’s mental illness had spoiled his plans to establish the “Studio of the South”, and he decided to move out of the Yellow House. On 30 April, as he was packing up paintings to be sent to Theo, he discovered that a number had become damaged by flooding; one was The Bedroom, which he had been greatly pleased with. He wrote to his brother in disappointment:
“The water from a flood rose up to a few feet from the house and, more importantly, when I came back water and saltpetre were oozing from the walls becasuse the house had been without a fire during my absence. That had an effect on me, not only the studio having foundered, but even the studies which would have been the memories of it damaged, it’s so final, and my urge to found something very simple but durable was so strong.” Read the complete letter
Marije Vellekoop, Roelie Zwikker