This work was painted while Van Gogh was working in the company of Gauguin at Arles. It was retouched early in 1889. Van Gogh painted a companion picture of Gauguin's armchair, shown by night, now in the Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam. The two paintings may have been intended to represent the contrasting temperaments and interests of the two artists.
What gives this picture its expressive power? Is it Van Gogh’s conscious concern with the effect of light? Perhaps in part, for he has changed a chair of unpainted wood into yellow in order to heighten its contrast with the red and to achieve an integrated harmony of colour. But beyond the problems of design is the utter seriousness with which the painter regarded such familiar objects, a respect so profound as almost to transform them into living beings. Like the rest of his bedroom in Arles they become symbols of stability in Van Gogh’s world of continual crisis.