What Really Happened in the Yellow House at Arles in 1888?


Gauguin – Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers

In October 1888 Paul Gauguin arrived in Arles to stay at the Yellow House with Vincent van Gogh. At first the friendship worked well and the two artists went out to paint in the countryside around Arles. They also painted side by side on the Alyscamps, an old Roman burial ground, and even shared a model, both painting Madame Genoux ‘The Arlesienne’.

However divisions soon appeared. Gauguin tried to persuade van Gogh to paint from memory which van Gogh found difficult and unsatisfactory.

Gauguin – Les Arlesiennes 1888

Gauguin found van Gogh’s wild enthusiasms and constant talking about art and the future difficult to accept and disliked his impetuous way of painting. Van Gogh became increasingly jealous of Gauguin’s success with the local women and the fact that he was selling pictures through Theo van Gogh, while Vincent could sell nothing.

Van Gogh – Self Portrait with Pipe 1889

Everything came to a head on December 23rd 1888 when Gauguin fled the Yellow House fearing for his life, while van Gogh cut off part of his ear and delivered it in a box to the local brothel. Much has been written about this episode, but who was to blame and what really happened?

A fascinating lecture which discusses the two artists’ different approach to painting and surveys the results of this confrontation.