Chair with Pipe
The "Chair" (1888), in the collection of the National Gallery in London, was painted while Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was working with the Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin (1828-1909) at Arles. It was retouched early in 1889. Van Gogh had a characteristic palette of:
- red lake,
- cadmium yellow,
- ultramarine blue,
- cobalt blue,
- cobalt violet,
- emerald green,
- lead white.
The chair looks solid if uncomfortable, its round wooden legs braced by uneven bars, with a high, hard back and straw seat. Van Gogh used a hessian canvas, its colour a warm, orange-brown. Opaque paint was applied directly onto the raw hessian and the composition loosely established without underdrawing. Separate areas were then reworked and built up using wet-in-wet handling of the paint. The outlines were then reinforced with decisive strokes of colour into wet paint. Contrasts of red and green were worked into the pattern of the floor. Orange-yellow and violet-blue were used in the chair.
Still Life Details
Still life details were finally added when the picture was dry.
- Van Gogh smoked a pipe because Charles Dickens advised it as a cure for melancholy; his pipe lies on the chair.
- The box at the back holds sprouting onions and is signed Vincent.
Doors of Perception
The British writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) describes how:
"At the back of the W.B.D.S., among the toys, the greeting cards and the comics, stood a row, surprisingly enough, of art books. I picked up the first volume that came to hand. It was on Van Gogh, and the picture at which the book opened was 'The Chair' - that astounding portrait of a Ding an Sich, which the mad painter saw, with a kind of adoring terror, and tried to render on his canvas. But it was a task to which the power even of genius proved wholly inadequate."