A Still Life Chair
The still life chair that comes to mind most often has to be the Van Gogh Chair. I was certainly reminded of the famous painting as I reached the latter stages of my painting Runner and Old Teal Chair. No doubt the ‘from above’ angle, the yellow and teal shades and the rustic chair are what jogged my memory.
The early stages of this casein painting were very far from those bright shades though. I started with an underpainting of graphite (which explains all the grey you see in the photograph below) and acrylic ink on watercolour paper.
Van Gogh’s Chair with Pipe
Yes, Vincent Van Gogh’s chair has a pipe on it. The Dutch artist started this painting in November 1888 when he was living in Arles, a town in the South of France. Around that time he was sharing his space with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. But the two artists had a massive falling out culminating in Van Gogh cutting off a bit of his left ear!
In a letter to his brother Theo he describes the piece as being a pendant of another painting, this second painting was of Gauguin’s chair. The two paintings were a themed pair that were to be hung side by side. Van Gogh’s was a deal (type of softwood) chair on which he had placed his pipe and a little pouch of tobacco. His name, Vincent, is written on a box of onions in the background.
He built up the painting, which you might also know as Van Gogh’s Yellow Chair, with complementary yellow-orange and blue hues for the most part. It depicts a daytime scene (whereas the Gauguin’s Chair is set at night). With the two paintings Van Gogh was hoping for an ‘effect of light with bright/clear colour’.
The Van Gogh Chair is such a beautiful painting. When the Covid lockdowns are over I plan to go to the National Gallery, London, and see it in person.
Other Famous Paintings of Chairs
Empty chairs make great subjects for still life study. Chairs are reasonably simple to paint yet they provide interest and variety of shape, colour and material. A chair without an occupant, as the main focus of a painting, raises so many questions: who’s chair is it, where are they, what does it symbolise? With these two paintings people think Van Gogh was saying something about the state of his relationship with Gauguin.
Here are a few other famous chair paintings to enjoy along with the Van Gogh piece:
Paul Gauguin’s Armchair by Van Gogh
A lighted candle and two novels (one pink, one yellow) sit on the empty chair. He painted this pendant to the ‘Chair with Pipe’ in complementary greens and reds. You can see it in the Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam.
Oil on Canvas, 36 x 29 inches. (He painted a lot bigger than I ever do!)
The Old Chair by John Singer Sargent
This is a lovely painterly depiction of an old woven chair, outside on a lawn with a small vase of flowers on the seat. The dappled sunshine is beautiful! It was painted by the American artist in 1886 and is currently in a private collection.
Oil on Canvas.
Chair with Peaches (Lorrain Chair) by Henri Matisse
This 1919 painting is held in a Private Collection. Its simple colours and definite shapes are typical of post-impressionism.
Oil on Canvas, 51 x 35 inches.
Picasso, Still Life with Chair Caning
This example of Synthetic Cubism is the work of Pablo Picasso. It is oil on oil cloth over canvas and he has edged it with rope. The oil cloth is printed with a cane chair pattern but the chair is very much a bit player amongst the paraphernalia on the glass table above.
11.5 x 14.5 inches. Picasso Museum, Paris.
Tina Lewis, The Old Teal Chair
And then we come to The Old Teal Chair. It has seen better days and known many sitters. But now sees out its last days in a quite corner alongside a striped runner rug. I bet it has many stories to tell!
Casein over a graphite and ink underpainting, I used a palette knife to give the walls all the texture you see.
The painting was created for a WetCanvas Weekend Drawing Event, these online events take place each week and we are invited to take our pick from a selection of photographs. You can buy framed, metal and acrylic prints of The Old Teal Chair.
Van Gogh’s Chair in a Pendant
Van Gogh painted his chair as a pendant piece to go with the painting of Gauguin’s chair. It amused me to have a crop of my painting in place of the Gauguin chair and imagine myself seated in the teal chair and chatting to Vincent in his. As well as talking about his painting techniques he could tell me about his time in Arles and fill me in with all the gossip of his quarrels with Paul Gauguin!