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Irises in a vase

Painting, May 1890, 73.7×92.1 cm

Description of the artwork «Irises in a vase»

Unrecognized during his lifetime and misunderstood by his contemporaries, today Vincent Van Gogh is considered the greatest Post-Impressionist artist striking the connoisseurs with his bright talent, unique visual methods and a huge artistic legacy. In just ten years, he created about a thousand paintings and as many drawings. "Reality is the true basis of genuine poetry," these words of the master truly determined his creative credo.

Van Gogh painted "Irises in a Vase" during his stay in a mental asylum, several months before his death in April 1890. In the periods of recession, the lonely genius worked without stint. In those days, he was concentrated on painting landscapes and still lifes.

Vincent van Gogh created two canvases with irises in a vase almost in parallel: one on a pink background, and the other on a yellow one. A sensitive artist, van Gogh showed how strong the emotional power of different color solutions of the same subject could be. Notice how differently we perceive the depicted objects depending on whether they contrast with their background or are in harmony with it. Vincent van Gogh emphasized the harmony of green, purple and pink here. It should be noted that the colors on the canvas have faded over years. The pink background is almost white now, and the purple shades of irises lost their depth, having become more bluish. The artist sadly noted that the paintings fade like flowers, and time confirmed his statement.

In this painting, the viewer’s attention is riveted by a gorgeous bouquet of irises in a pale blue vase. The cold pastel tints are light and airy, while there is no interplay of light and shadow here. It was harmony and peace, that Vincent van Gogh wished to achieve by placing the pacifying cool purple patches of irises all over the canvas. He carefully painted the petals, showing their tenderness, emphasizing their wonderful fragility, depicting the wilting of some of the flowers in the bouquet.

It is symbolic that the great master would never return to bright and caustic colors, preferring to paint in soft pastel tones in the last months of his life. As well as the paintings that followed it, Van Gogh`s “Irises in a Vase” reflect the inner state of the artist. Here we can trace the characteristic features of the artist's unstable mental state, the signs of his angst between spiritual uplift and despair.

Despite the fact that among the fresh flowers, there are also those fading, despite a sad symbolism of the transience of beauty, this work is perceived easily and without negativity. Tenderness and harmony of shades, and clear lines of the still life give a pleasant relaxation to the contemplator.

After the tragic death of the painter, "Irises in a Vase" got to his mother, and remained in her house until her death in 1908. Now this masterpiece hangs in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
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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 1890

Size: 73.7×92.1 cm

Artwork in selections: 56 selections

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