Vincent van Gogh - Irises

by Alexandra Tuschka


"The Irises" is one of the many paintings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Irises was painted before his death in 1890 while Vincent van Gogh was living in the mental hospital of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France.

"Even from a distance, it hits the eye. The irises are a beautiful study full of air and life." - By Theo van Gogh (brother of Vincent van Gogh).

He called the painting "The Lightning Rod for My Illness" because he understood how much painting kept him from going crazy. It was painted before his first seizure in the mental hospital.

The painting was influenced by the Japanese artist Ukiyo-e and their woodblock prints. Like many of his works and those of other artists of the time, the Japanese artists were a model. The similarities stand out with strong contours, unusual angles and special close-ups.


Vincent van Gogh considered this type of painting to be a study, which is probably why there are no known drawings for this work. Theo, van Gogh's brother, quickly reconsidered and submitted this work to the annual exhibition of the "Société des Artistes Indépendants" in September 1889 (an artists' association to which Monet and Renoir also belonged). Together with "Starry Night over the Rhône", these were the first works in a Paris exhibition by Vincent van Gogh. Theo wrote to Vincent about the exhibition, "Even from a distance it strikes the eye. The irises are a beautiful study full of air and life." - By Theo van Gogh (brother of Vincent van Gogh). In 1987 it was the highest selling painting in the world. Current value over $100 million USD.


Van Gogh's art is strongly influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, his now "typical" painting style developed in a more mature style and is characterized by prominent contours, unusual angles, special close-ups and striking complementary contrasts. Above all, the rapid, spontaneously juxtaposed brushstrokes in their impasto application lend his paintings intensity, liveliness and a certain immediacy.

The Irises was painted immediately before Vincent van Gogh's death in 1890, while he was living in the mental hospital of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in France. He described the painting as a "lightning rod of his illness" because art was also therapy for him. Depicted is a close-up view of a flowerbed with a row of the ornamental plants sprouting from the ground in the center. The trumpet-shaped fused petals of the lily plant stand out in their bluish-purple hue against the green of the sword-shaped leaves and the red-brown of the ground. But amidst the uniform sea of irises, a white flower catches the eye, offering a welcome change.


Van Gogh's brother presented this work at the annual exhibition of the "Société des Artistes Indépendants" in September 1889, an artists' association to which Monet and Renoir also belonged. Together with "Starry Night over the Rhône" this was the first of his works in a Paris exhibition, about which his brother Theo wrote: "Even from a distance it strikes the eye. The irises are a beautiful study full of air and life." In 1987, it was even the highest selling painting in the world, with its current value estimated at over $100 million.


Vincent van Gogh - Irises

Oil on canvas, 1889, 71 x 93 cm, Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

Visit us 

  • Instagram
  • Youtube

© 2021 the artinspector