Paul Gauguin's Armchair Vincent van Gogh Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This is a still life oil-on-canvas work, painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1888. It has a colourful, cartoon-like appearance. It features an empty armchair in which there are some books, a cushion and a lighted candle. The title of the painting is Paul Gauguin's Armchair.

Who is Paul Gauguin and why has van Gogh painted his armchair? In order to understand it, it might be necessary to understand the relationship between van Gogh and his friend, the painter Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh was a humble, sensitive artist, dedicated to his craft. Paul Gauguin was selfish. He was married and had children with his wife and his mistress. However, he would abandon both women and move to Tahiti, to start afresh. He would find a Tahitian partner and have another child.

He lived for himself. When van Gogh moved to Arles in Provence, he dreamed of starting a colony of artists who would live and paint together. He invited Gauguin to Arles. Van Gogh humbly considered Gauguin to be great. Gauguin had no time for van Gogh or his art. When van Gogh shared with his friend his dream of setting up a colony of artists, Gauguin told him that he would not be a part of it as he was planning to move to Tahiti. He left van Gogh alone and the sad, despairing artist almost lost his mind with disappointment and loneliness.

That empty armchair, containing a few books which may have been read by Gauguin says it all. The artist is sad as his friend is gone. Do the lighted candle and the burning lamp signify hope for the friend’s return and the resurrection of the dream? Who knows? But poor Vincent van Gogh’s slide into despair had already begun. Saddened and maddened by despair, he died in 1890, two years after completing this painting. Gauguin lived into the next century.

The Artist

Vincent van Gogh was a 19th-century Dutch painter, born in 1853. He died in the year 1890. He, along with Gauguin, is considered to be a leading painter of the post-impressionist style. Post-impressionism was an art movement which flowered at the end of the 19th century and was a reaction to the impressionist movement. The post-Impressionists resented what they considered to be the artistic limitations of impressionism. Post-impressionist paintings feature vivid colour, thick application of paint and generally, live subjects.

Van Gogh appears to have suffered from what we now call bipolar disorder. He painted prolifically and he also painted well, when he was happy. But when things were going badly, his fall into depression was spectacular and deadly. In his final bouts of despair, he cut off a part of his earlobe. However, van Gogh will always be remembered for his wonderful talent and creative ingenuity. His paintings appear to explode with colour and vitality.