Double-square painting

Double-square paintings have uncommonly large canvases. Vincent van Gogh, for example, used them almost exclusively during the final weeks of his life in Auvers, in June and July 1890.[1] To arrive at this size, Van Gogh simply had to combine the legs of two standard sizes: the 50 cm leg from a size 12 and the 100 cm leg of a size 40 stretcher. The result was a double-square of 50 x 100 cm, and from this size easily the square could be derived by using two 50 cm legs.

Other artists prior to Van Gogh such as Charles-François Daubigny and Puvis de Chavannes[2] had used canvases of similar proportions, and Van Gogh was aware of this. But his choice of this size points into another direction. His double-squares can easily be combined with size 30 canvases to more elaborated décorations, and his squares extend these possibilities.

One dimension of a double-square canvas is twice the size of the other. In other words, the canvas is the shape of two adjoining squares. The overall effect of this is stability, and the compositional challenge is to avoid monotony.

Van Gogh's Double-square canvases

Mademoiselle Gachet at the Piano, 1890, Kunstmuseum Basel

Subsequent uses of the dimensions

Ivon Hitchens worked primarily in double-squares at certain periods in his career.


  1. These terms were coined by Ronald Pickvance, one of the leading experts in Van Gogh-research.
  2. Hammacher, A. M. The Ten Creative Years of Vincent van Gogh, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1968. page 175
  3. Pickvance (1986), 272-273


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