Irises, 1890

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 92 x 73.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)
  • F 678

In 1889 and 1890 Van Gogh stayed in a psychiatric hospital in the southern French village of Saint-Rémy. He worked hard there, seeking the majority of his subjects in nature. After a period of illness that ended in April 1890, he threw himself into the production of a number of flower still lifes. He painted roses and two canvases with large bunches of purple irises. One of these was painted against a pink background, ‘the other purple bouquet (which extends to pure carmine and Prussian blue), is set against a bright lemon-yellow background with other yellow tints in the vase & the base it stands on. Its effect is one of enormously divergent complementary colors that are exalted by their oppositions,’ he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo.

More information about "Irises"

Irises in the field

Already in Arles, Van Gogh had been delighted by the brightness of purple irises, flowering in the fields around the town where he had lived and worked in 1888. A view of Arles shows these flowers in the foreground, and just as in his later still lifes, in sharp contrast to the yellow areas. The painter loved both this combination of colors and the small town surrounded by flowers.

A lot of paint

According to Van Gogh, the generous amount of paint meant that his canvases needed a month to dry. For this reason he was unable to take them with him when he left the hospital for a short stay in Paris. A member of the hospital staff was to send them on. More than five weeks after his departure, Van Gogh was at last able to write to his brother Theo: ‘The canvases I made down there have arrived. The irises have dried thoroughly.’

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