Van Gogh’s Bedroom Secrets

Follow the process of restoring one of Vincent van Gogh’s most popular paintings, The bedroom, in the online blog Bedroom secrets: Restoration of a masterpiece. Featured in the collection of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, The bedroom was painted in 1888 when the artist was living in the Yellow House in Arles and awaiting the painter Paul Gauguin to join him there. This period is considered a turbulent time for Van Gogh—he would cut off part of his left ear late in the year—yet also a formative period for his art.

Van Gogh first mentioned The bedroom and made a sketch of it in a letter to his brother Theo on October 16, 1888 and discussed it again the following day in correspondence with Gauguin, where he provided another sketch. While Van Gogh was hospitalized for depression and the mutilation of his ear, the painting suffered water damage in his studio, yet he still considered it his favorite. “When I saw my canvases again after my illness,” he wrote to Theo, “what seemed to me the best was the bedroom.” At Theo’s urging, Van Gogh made a second version of the painting in 1889; and he later produced a smaller copy of it for his mother and sister.

Extensively restored in 1930, The bedroom was scheduled for another restoration in the 1980s, but it has taken until now for the work to begin. Conservators studied it for nearly a year and discovered fading and tiny cracks in the paint, as well as paint loss. The Van Gogh Museum director, the head of conservation, and an assistant curator have already begun writing about their findings on the blog and will continue to file reports until the restoration is complete and the painting is returned to its proper place in the museum’s galleries.