Why would Van Gogh paint shoes? Shoes! That also jagged, worn out. Rejecting sublime and heroic themes why would an artist choose to paint something which can't be considered a thing of beauty. How important is the choice of subject in the creation of artwork? We know well that a maestro can render even a flat composition marvelously owing to his dexterity and uniqueness. But VanGogh wasn't even trying a feat like that…he wasn't confident of himself as a master who would perform such a stunt to display his prowess. He painted pair of shoes many times during 1886 to 1888. This one was done in 1888.
To understand this we have to bear in mind the social background of the artist. After all the creator as we see him laid mythically in the books had all the common feelings of a human being.
Van Gogh's life was marred by poverty, loneliness and insanity. That his poverty lead him to insanity and insanity to his poverty is a complex issue. A lone, idiosyncratic fellow who is feels the fangs of poverty on his flesh in order to paint it faithfully will literally be drawn to floor. Sitting in his room he had beds, chairs, or as in this case his shoes as his only companions. It was VanGogh's constant engagement with these things that made him look for animation in these objects who started resembling him. The shoes are disordered and haggard. The pair appears to contain two left shoes, allegorically telling the grotesque tale of his life. Painted in brown monochrome they are like an art movie shot in black & white to beautify the poor and pitiable.
These can be read as portraits of the artist. Swollen at different places as they take shape of his feet they remind his presence even when removed.
Again it's the self-righteousness of the painter who takes pride in this state of his for the sake of art and this he does by suggesting a halo around his shoes through short strokes which were later to found in his larger and famous works like Starry Night.
Compositinally speaking they are arranged cleverly against the direction of square pattern of the floor. Their curvilinear contours defy the geometry of floor in form and movement. Place in the centre of a square canvas the shoes form a hill like triangle.