In 1888 Van Gogh had moved to live in ‘the Yellow House’ in Arles, Provence and was developing his mastery of landscape painting. He had invited his friend Paul Gauguin to come and share the house and had a dream of developing an artists colony in the town. Unfortunately the two artists fell out within two months of Gauguin’s arrival and he left. It was only a short while after this that Van Gogh had the first of his mental breakdowns and was committed to hospital.
Van Gogh painted two ‘portraits’, Gauguins empty chair with a lighted candle, and his own empty chair. These two paintings are hanging side by side on the Royal Academy in London just now in the big exhibition I went to today called The Real Van Gogh, The Artist and his Letters. I found both paintings are full of feeling and expression.. powerfully giving the feeling of emptiness I have been looking for in this project about absence and presence, and also suggesting dreams and plans that have crumbled to dust.