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Painting, May 1889, 71×93 cm

Description of the artwork «Irises»

It is difficult to believe in it, but one of the most peaceful and serene paintings by Vincent Van Gogh was written in the most, perhaps, gloomy period of his life. In May 1889, after he was hospitalized several times, and the good residents of Arles signed a petition to expel the mad artist from the city, Vincent decided to voluntarily go for treatment at a psychiatric hospital, Saint-Paul-de-Mausol to Saint-Remy. "Irises" he wrote in the very first week of his stay in the hospital. And he had to live a little more than a year.

Like a huge number of other paintings by Van Gogh of the French period, "Irises" are written under the significant influence of Japanese art. Cropped composition, clearly defined planes of bright colors, and monumental flowers, as if rushing beyond the canvas. Usually Vincent made preliminary sketches for his canvases, often even providing quite detailed sketches of a letter to his brother. But the "Iris" outline has not survived. Moreover, experts believe that they do not exist at all, because Van Gogh himself considered this painting an etude. Theo, however, immediately praised the painting and presented it at the Salon of Independent in September 1889. Speaking about the exhibition in a letter to Vincent, he writes that the painting “Amazes view from afar. This is a beautiful sketch, full of air and life. ”

In the hospital, Van Gogh several times had serious seizures, between which he worked as if possessed. He believed that only in painting could he find salvation and called it "a lightning rod for the disease." Only by continuing to draw Vincent could believe that in fact he was not crazy. The doctors, however, had a different opinion: they were sure that during drawing Van Gogh was getting too nervous and excited, which caused the attacks. They limited the time that the artist could devote to painting, assigned an observer to him, but they nevertheless allowed him to set up a studio in one of the premises of the hospital.

"Irises" Van Gogh wrote shortly before the first attack that occurred in the hospital. Perhaps that is why the picture turned out so serene: then the artist was still confident that the treatment would produce results, and wrote irises with sincere admiration and joy. Each of these flowers is unique. Vincent has long observed the natural movements of the stems and petals and managed to accurately capture and reproduce very different curved silhouettes. The first owner of this painting and one of the first admirers of Van Gogh, French art historian Octave Mirabeau wrote: “How well he understood the refined essence of flowers!”

Author: Evgeny Sidelnikov.
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Still life

Style of art: Post-Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: May 1889

Size: 71×93 cm

Artwork in selections: 82 selections

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