Irises in the Garden do not fit into any regular genre box; they are not still life nor landscape. Such “snapshots of nature” have been common in Japanese woodblock printmaking – the tradition Vincent van Gogh admired and followed.
But Irises are far away from copying Japanese art prints. Vincent was a brilliant colourist and that clash of deep blues of flowers’ petals with minty greens of leaves and stems is his individual contribution to the genre.
Van Gogh created Irises in the Garden in his early days in Saint-Remy asylum, in May 1889. Most probably, he spotted blooming flowers in the hospital garden and has been attracted by their strong contrasting colours.
Vincent had to have subjects of his paintings in front of his eyes. He could not paint from memory hence his constant ventures outdoors. When in Arles, Paul Gauguin tried to persuade him to stay put but we all know how that turned out. Artists fell apart for good and van Gogh got through his first mental breakdown with the ear-cutting episode.
Vincent’s brother, Theo, almost immediately recognised the beauty of that painting and yet in September 1889, he admitted it to exhibition Salon des Indépendants in Paris.
- Medium: oil on canvas, 1889
- Original size: 74.3 × 94.3 cm (29 1/4 × 37 1/8 in.)
- Getty’s Open Content Program