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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Irises by Vincent van Gogh

Irises by Vincent van Gogh

Irises by 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 patterning of Japanese woodblock prints influenced the composition of vivid colour with irises overflowing into the canvas borders. 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 amongst the most expensive paintings ever sold. Other Iris’ paintings during 1889 by Vincent van Gogh include the following:

Vincent van Gogh - Irises

Irises at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vincent van Gogh - Irises

Irises at the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh - Iris

“Iris” at the National Gallery of Canada

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure. He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They were characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.

Reflections

  • Which version of Irises by Vincent van Gogh is your favourite?
  • Van Gogh felt that painting kept him from going insane. Do we all need a purpose to keep going?

Exploring Vincent van Gogh

Irises

  • 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

Vincent Willem van Gogh

Insights into Vincent van Gogh

  • He was born in the Netherlands
  • Initially, van Gogh planned to be a pastor and worked as a lay preacher in Belgium. It was only on being let go from this job that he decided that his future lay in painting.
  • He didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old.
  • He never received any formal art training.
  • His brother, Theo, worked in an art gallery and introduced van Gogh to many artworks.
  • He visited many parts of Europe including the Netherlands, France, Belgium and England.
  • Japanese woodblock prints profoundly influenced Van Gogh. He collected pictures of Japanese woodblock prints, and he practised making copies.
  • Van Gogh had several close relationships with many fellow artists, including Paul Gaugin and Emile Bernard.
  • His artistic career was only ten years.
  • He was a prolific letter writer, especially to his brother.
  • He created over 900 paintings plus many more drawings and sketches.
  • He died at the age of 37
  • As a poor artist, van Gogh didn’t have money to pay for models, so he painted himself instead. He created hundreds of self-portraits.
  • Van Gogh considered himself and many of his paintings to be failures.
  • He cut off his own ear in 1888, or he took the blame for it, after a quarrel with Paul Gaugin.
  • Experts believe that that Gaugin cut off Van Gogh’s ear, following a violent dispute and that they both conspired to blame it on Van Gogh so that Gaugin would not be jailed.
  • He wrapped up his removed ear and gave it to a prostitute in a nearby brothel.
  • Van Gogh suffered mental health challenges for many years, and in 1889 he voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy.
  • He spent a year in the hospital, from which he created some of his most well-known paintings.
  • Van Gogh spent his adult life in poverty, surviving on cheap food. His diet consisted mainly of bread and coffee, he drank alcohol excessively and always had his pipe in hand.
  • After leaving the asylum, Van Gogh’s mental health continued to deteriorate, and in 1890, he shot himself in the chest. He died two days later.
  • There is speculation that Van Gogh did not shoot himself but that he was shot in a prank that went wrong. Van Gogh protected the identity of who shot him, by claiming that he shot himself.
  • Only 37 years old when he died, he had just sold one painting in his lifetime.
  • On his deathbed, van Gogh’s last words to his brother were “the sadness will last forever”.
  • Van Gogh’s brother died very soon after Van Gogh’s death.

~~~

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

~~~


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

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