The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Irises

Irises-Vincent van Gogh

Irises is one of several paintings of irises by Vincent van Gogh and one of a series of paintings he painted at the asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, in the last year before his death.

In 1889 after several episodes of self-mutilation and hospitalisation, Van Gogh chose to enter an asylum. There, in the last year before his death, he created over 120 paintings. Shortly after entering the asylum, Van Gogh started Irises, working from nature in the asylum’s garden. He called painting “the lightning conductor for my illness” because he felt that he could keep himself from going insane by continuing to paint.

Each one of the irises is unique, for he studied their movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes. The composition of vivid colour with irises overflowing into the canvas borders, was influenced by the patterning of Japanese woodblock prints.

Van Gogh’s brother Theo submitted Irises for exhibition stating:

“It strikes the eye from afar. It is a beautiful study full of air and life.”

In 1987, Irises became the most expensive painting ever sold, setting a record which stood for two and a half years. Irises is in the top tier of most expensive paintings ever sold.

Other Iris’ paintings during 1889 by Vincent van Gogh include the following:

Vincent van Gogh - Irises (1890)

Irises at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vincent van Gogh - Irises - Google Art Project

Irises at the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh - Iris

“Iris” at the National Gallery of Canada

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                   Irises
  • Artist:                 Vincent van Gogh
  • Year:                   1889
  • Place Created:   Saint-Rémy, France
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions       71 cm × 93 cm (28 in ×  36 5⁄8 in)
  • Museum:           Getty Museum

Artist Essential Facts:

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“The best way to know God is to love many things.” Vincent van Gogh

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Photo Credit: Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons