A 30-minute wait for tickets. Another 50-minute wait to enter the galleries.
It’s Valentine’s Day, opening day for the “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit at the Art Institute (111 S. Michigan Ave.). Crowds have come to see more than 30 works by the troubled Dutch post-impressionist artist.
For the first time in North America, the exhibition brings together all three versions of “The Bedroom,” painted in 1888 and 1889. It’s the first to “thoroughly examine these three unique paintings, the story of their making, and their meaning to the artist,” as displayed on a wall at the exhibit.
The goal of the exhibit is to tell the artist’s life story, which is usually overlooked. Van Gogh is said to be one of the most misunderstood painters of his time, but the galleries explore his humanity, according to the organizer of the exhibition, Gloria Groom.
Upon entrance, a wall displays a map of the 37 places Van Gogh lived in his 37 years.
The first gallery begins at his parent’s home in Nuenen, Netherlands, when Van Gogh was 30 years old. Some of his early paintings are on display, along with works from the artists he encountered.
Van Gogh began to discover his own technique, and his newfound theme of “home and haven” continued throughout his career.
The next gallery takes museum-goers into the artist’s life in Paris, where he spent two years experimenting with avant-garde techniques and colors. On display are his paintings, books from his private collection and objects of influence from his time in the artistic capital of the world.
In search of a more stable home, Van Gogh took an overnight train to Arles, France, in 1888. The Arles room features two of his famous chair paintings as well as a rarity from the Art Institute’s collection, “The Poet’s Garden,” which usually isn’t displayed because of its delicate nature.
In this little town in the south of France, Van Gogh resided in his beloved “Yellow House,” where he painted the original “Bedroom.”
The subsequent room in the exhibit displays a full-scale reproduction of the small quarters he lived in — allowing you to stand at the angle from which Van Gogh painted “The Bedroom.”
It was here he suffered a psychological breakdown, which led Van Gogh to lose his left ear in a quarrel with his neighbor, French post-impressionist artist, Paul Gauguin. Historians still dispute whether Van Gogh severed his own ear or Gauguin cut it off during a heated argument.
He spent much of the next year in a health asylum near Saint-Remy, France, where he requested his brother send his first “Bedroom” painting. He painted two other versions in September 1889, which are on display in the exhibition room.
A large screen in the adjacent room digitally displays all three bedrooms alongside one another, zooming in on particular aspects of the paintings, drawing attention to the differences.
After visiting the exhibit on opening day, senior Magdalena Jachymiak said, “It was too crowded. I feel like I wasn’t experiencing it fully.”
Although she didn’t enjoy her first visit, the history and international studies double major said she would come back on a less crowded day.
The Van Gogh “Bedrooms” exhibit is open until May 10 and with their Loyola ID, students receive free admission to the Art Institute and exhibit.
“The way they handled the exhibit was masterful,” Limón said. “The bedrooms are so telling about the evolution of the man and the evolution of art. It was tremendous, triumphant, tragic and transcendent.”