Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles Postcard
Unusual for Van Gogh is the delicate handling of the Pont d'Asnières of his Paris period, in which the scene is barely described, merely suggested with the tip of the brush, "written in" as it were, quite in the Japanese manner. But there was, to be sure, more to it than that. In Japanese prints he had certainly seen what others had seen and had benefited from it: flat tones, arabesques and, in this case, two-dimensional space, a space which would appear to be more decorative than expressive, but which he nevertheless made the basis of his expression. And in them, he discovered above all what Gauguin termed the "right to dare everything," not merely in the sense of technical freedom, but in a moral sense as well. This qualification is not too strong, if we consider the incredible contrast--night and day--between the muted colours of Nuenen and the solar blaze of the Sunflowers at Arles. What had occurred was in the nature of a rebirth, the emergence of a whole human being, and, looking back from the Arles period to the portrait of Père Tanguy (1886) and the flower-filled Restaurant ( 1887), more like a Japanese spring than a pointillist or neo-impressionist painting, we can see whence Vincent the Dutchman gained the courage to "dare everything"--in other words, to throw overboard all moral and family constraints, an oppressive pictorial tradition, and a seeming reality that did not reflect his image or, if it did, reflected it in the most drab and lifeless way.