Butterflies and Poppies, 1890

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 34.5 X 25.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 748

Between them, Vincent and Theo had a considerable collection of Japanese prints, and the influences of Japanese art are clearly visible in this decorative floral piece. The close-up of the flowers and insects is typically Japanese, as are the asymmetric composition and the lack of depth.

Amidst a confusion of green foliage, Van Gogh created butterflies with a few dabs of paint – a counterpoint to the two flowers at the top of the painting. The vegetative profusion at lower right contrasts with the emptiness at left, where whole areas of canvas remain unpainted.

More information about "Butterflies and Poppies"


For two centuries, Japan discouraged trade with the rest of the world. In the 1850s, however, the country finally bowed to outside pressure and opened its ports to foreign vessels and Western commercial interests. Japanese prints, lacquerware, and porcelains flooded into Europe, creating a craze for furniture and crafts of Japanese design. European artists were eager to abandon the staid conventions of academic art, and they freely imitated the bold, pure color, assertive outlines, and cropped compositions of Japanese prints. Japanese art created an indelible impression on Van Gogh. He, like many of his colleagues, avidly collected woodblock prints: "We like Japanese painting, we are influenced by it-all Impressionists have that in common."

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