Vincent Van Gogh Paintings Reveal Hidden Secrets

The paintings of Vincent Van Gogh are the focus of Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, a new exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, reported PRI’s Science Friday. Presented only at the Art Institute, the exhibition is the first of its kind and brings together all three of the iconic Bedroom paintings Van Gogh created of his quarters in Arles, France, an intimate space the artist called home between 1888 and 1889.

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Running through May 10, 2016, Van Gogh’s Bedrooms is more than just another art exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings; it is also a unique chance to learn about hidden secrets uncovered in the artist’s work. Most recently, the Art Institute of Chicago discovered that the walls in Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, The Bedroom were actually originally painted purple by the artist, although they have appeared to be quite blue throughout recent history, PRI.org reported. According to Francesca Casadio, who serves as senior conservation scientist at the Art Institute, the breakthrough was made possible by details left behind by the artist.

“The first clue was actually given to us not by our curator… but by Van Gogh himself.”

In 1888, Vincent Van Gogh wrote a letter to his brother that described the space he lived that later came to be known as “The Bedroom,” naming the walls a “pale violet” and revealing the floor was made of “red tiles.” Today, in all three of the paintings that depict Van Gogh’s sleeping quarters, the walls seem instead to be a cerulean blue, while the floor reads as a blend of green and brown. Casadio says the last decade has been integral in discoveries of this kind.

“In the past 10 years, we’ve become more attuned to the fact that these pigments can change. We now can measure the change and we can identify those fading pigments. We immediately set out to try to answer these questions… It was a wonderful detective-type work that we were allowed to do on this iconic masterpiece.”

The Bedroom was actually a place of relative peace for the often-tormented artist Vincent Van Gogh, reported Chicago Tonight. Located in a small yellow home in the South of France, the space that lies at the center of the Art Institute’s new Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit takes viewers into the artist’s search for “home.” Since he was only active as a painter for eight short years, the exhibit’s goal was to start where Van Gogh became active as an artist and show the trajectory of his evolution over the years.

“He lived in 37 residences in 37 years and he was a misfit,” shared Gloria Groom, curator at the Art Institute of Chicago. “He never fit in and he considered himself a man without a homeland. The one time he had his own bedroom that he furnished and considered a statement of who he was is the bedroom at Arles.”

This isn’t the first time researchers have discovered hidden secrets in the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, however. Scientists also discovered an uncanny resemblance between the swirling patterns in Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night and images captured by the Hubble Telescope of clouds, gasses and dust surrounding a distant star, reported India Times.

“They found that while living in an asylum, the painter had captured one of the most complex concepts of science – known as turbulence.”

This concept, often the subject of studies involving fluid dynamics, explains how fluidity becomes violent disorder at the point where larger whirlpools produce smaller eddies, which then go through the same process to produce even smaller eddies, and so on. Scientists analyzing Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night, found the artist had demonstrated “extremely surprising” perceptiveness in his complex recreation of turbulence.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]