In May 1888, Van Gogh rented four rooms on the right side of a house, 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, France. In his painting, The Yellow House, Van Gogh’s living quarters are the ones with the green shutters and his bedroom lay beyond. Van Gogh hoped that at The Yellow House he could create a place to invite friends and establish a “Studio of the South” where like-minded artists could create together.
Because of the buttery yellow exterior color of the building, Van Gogh called it, the Yellow House. In 1888, when he painted a portrait of the home he used a palette of yellow and blue, his signature colors of the time, but intensified the colors against a bright blue sky.
In a letter dated September 26, 1888 to his brother, Theo:
“I am sure that I shall be able to do a good job of work, and during that period I should not like to run short of yellow and blue.”
Van Gogh is known to have depicted places in his paintings that were close to his heart. The Yellow House definitely grew close to his heart. In a letter to his sister, Wilhelmina, written in September, 1888, Van Gogh said:
“My house here is painted the yellow colour of fresh butter outside with raw green shutters; it stands in the full sunlight on a square which has a green garden with plane trees, oleanders and acacias. And it is completely whitewashed inside, and the floor is made of red bricks. And over it the intensely blue sky. There I can live and breathe, think and paint.”
September 28, 1888, Van Gogh sent Theo a sketch of his composition saying:
“Also a sketch of a 30 square canvas representing the house and its setting under a sulphur sun under a pure cobalt sky. The theme is a hard one! But that is exactly why I want to conquer it. Because it is fantastic, these yellow houses in the sun and also the incomparable freshness of the blue. All the ground is yellow too. I will soon send you a better drawing of it than this sketch out of my head.
The house on the left is pink with green shutters. It’s the one that is shaded by a tree. This is the restaurant where I go to dine every day. My friend the factor is at the end of the street on the left, between the two bridges of the railroad. The night café that I painted is not in the picture, it is on the left of the restaurant.”