On 1 May 1889, Vincent rented part of a yellow stucco-faced building on Place Lamartine at a rate of 15 francs a month. He used it as a studio at first, and on 1 September he began living there too. He called the building the Yellow House and planned to lavishly decorate its interior with paintings.
Vincent wanted to turn the house into a “studio of the south” where artists could live and work together. He needed company and a sounding board, and living with others was more economical besides. Using money from his brother Theo, he had new furniture made – two beds, chairs and a table – and got the house connected to the gas supply so he could work by artificial light in the evenings and in winter. He created a number of works for the purpose of decorating the house; they included four sunflower paintings, The Public Garden with a couple strolling, The Tarascon Stagecoach, The Night Café, The Yellow House (“The Street”), Starry Night over the Rhône and The Trinquetaille bridge.
The ground floor of the Yellow House contained a simple studio and a kitchen. Upstairs were two more rooms: Vincent’s bedroom and one for the artists he intended to host at the “studio of the south”.
Vincent invited Paul Gauguin, whom he had befriended in Paris, for a visit, and Gauguin arrived on 23 October. Though they lived and worked together in harmony at first, their respective personalities and divergent ideas about art soon strained the relationship. On 23 December, tensions ran so high that in a fit of madness Vincent cut off part of his ear and gave it to a prostitute. Gauguin went back to Paris on 25 December. Vincent was admitted to hospital and discharged in early January. In February, however, he suffered again one breakdown. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood residents were in revolt: they considered Vincent a threat and sought to have him sent to an asylum. Though they did not get their wish, Vincent was sent back to hospital. During his third stay there, he wrote to his brother:
“I write to you in full possession of my presence of mind and not like a madman but as the brother you know. Here is the truth: a certain number of people from here have addressed a petition (there were more than 80 signatures on it) to the mayor [...] designating me as a man not worthy of living at liberty, or something like that.”
Vincent’s mental illness had spoiled his plans to establish the “studio of the south”, and he decided to move out of the Yellow House. On 30 April, as he was packing up paintings to be sent to Theo, he discovered that a number had become damaged by flooding; one was The Bedroom, which he had been greatly pleased with. He wrote to his brother in disappointment: