Art Reflections

Top Seven Bed Scenes in Art History

The bed. It’s where you rest, rejuvenate, and sometimes feel most at home. Some of the top artists throughout history have used it as a backdrop to drama, passion, and scenes of sheer beauty. Creating a bed scene is more than simply painting an interior space. These notable artists have painted some of the most masterful works that center on the bed.

1. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles” – Van Gogh created five versions of this bedroom scene. Without a person present, this interior setting is filled with vivid colors and a famously skewed perspective. That said, some say it was Van Gogh’s bedroom that was peculiar in size, and not the artist’s view of it.

Van Gogh - Bedroom At Arles

2. Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” – Shocking at the time of its unveiling, Manet’s Olympia wasn’t the picture-perfect French woman that some would have expected to see on a bed. Instead, she was a courtesan. The focus of public attack when it was first hung in the Salon of Paris in 1885, this famous work depicts the model as a real woman with her flaws and all.

3. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s “In Bed: The Kiss” – The sensual, yet tender, scene in this Toulouse-Lautrec painting shows the intimate emotions between the couple in bed. The loving embrace, gentle kiss and closed eyes create a picture that draws the viewer in. Instead of noticing the bed itself, it is actually the kiss that focuses as the most prominent part of this work.

Toulouse-Lautrec - In Bed The Kiss

4. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s “The Bed” – This work is another bed scene by the famous French artist, but with a different twist. The warm colors surround the subjects as they gaze it each other. Less sensual than Toulouse-Lautrec’s “In Bed: The Kiss,” this artwork is just as emotional.

Toulouse-Lautrec - The Bed

5. Berthe Morisot’s “Le Berceau (The Cradle)” – A bed of a different kind! Not all beds are made for adult, or are the centerpiece of adult-like scenes. In “The Cradle” the artist depicts the bed of an infant. This painting, like many of Morisot’s, revolves aren’t the everyday life of women. Featuring the artist’s sister as the model, “Le Berceau” is a bed scene of a woman’s life. Painting in the Impressionist style, the artist creates layers of light throughout the cradle and draping fabric.

Morisot - Le Berceau (The Cradel)

6. Sandro Botticelli’s “The Extraction of the Heart of St. Ignatius from the Altarpiece of St. Barnabas” – Painted in 1488, this Botticelli work shows the saint laid to rest on a bold bed. His two onlookers are about to extract his heart – to find out if it truly does have the word of Christ emblazoned on it.

7. Mary Cassatt’s “Breakfast in Bed” – An Impressionist, Mary Cassatt was an American painter who was greatly influenced by some of the finest French artists. “Breakfast in Bed” (painted in 1894) depicts an everyday type of morning scene between a mother and her child. Cassatt favored these types of narratives, placing an emphasis on women and the bonds between them and their children.

Mary Cassatt - Breakfast in Bed

These are a few of the most influential and tantalizing bed scenes in art history, what bed scenes strike your fancy?

About the Author

Erica Loop has a BA in the history of art and architecture as well as film studies. She has worked for the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Ms. Loop has taught studio-based art classes for children from toddlers to teens for the past decade along with writing freelance content across the web.