Van Gogh's Chair

This work was painted while Van Gogh was working in the company of Gauguin at Arles. It was retouched early in 1889. Van Gogh painted a companion picture of Gauguin's armchair, shown by night, now in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. The two paintings may have been intended to represent the contrasting temperaments and interests of the two artists.

Personal response: Niall O'Sullivan
Poet Niall O'Sullivan reads a poem inspired by 'Van Gogh's Chair' - 1 min 37 secs

Miranda Hinkley (in the studio): ‘Goodnight Vincent’ by Niall O’Sullivan.

Niall O’Sullivan:
Your cocky chair nearly had us.
Almost a dare, rather than an invitation.
You skew perspective, pitch that hard clay floor into our faces
And yet those roots reach out from the box of onions,
Prove that the truth, the will, cannot be contained.
A blunt offer, but still an invitation.
Please be seated, minus the please.
We reciprocate with a bi-millennial money-tainted gaze.
Scanning for some e-mo porn,
Omens of tragedy rumbling beneath thick smears of beaming yellow.
Perhaps it is more fitting that when the floor no longer squeaks
With the gait of rubber souls,
After the day’s last echoing whisper signifies a constant failure of words
Lights out.
Photons cease their frantic dance with no retinal rods to catch them.
And I like to think that you’re invitation still stands,
And it is the silence, the stillness, the darkness that accept it.

From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Seven, May 2007

Key facts

Artist dates
1853 - 1890
Full title
Van Gogh's Chair
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
91.8 x 73 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1924
Inventory number
Location in Gallery

Further information

In depth