In May 1889, after episodes of mental illness, Vincent van Gogh chose to enter an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. There, in the last year before his death, he created almost 130 paintings. Within the first week, he began Irises, working from nature in the asylum's garden. The cropped composition, divided into broad areas of vivid color with monumental irises overflowing its borders, was probably influenced by the decorative patterning of Japanese woodblock prints. Each iris painted by Van Gogh is unique. He carefully studied their movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes bounded by wavy, twisting, and curling lines. The painting's first owner, French art critic Octave Mirbeau, one of Van Gogh's earliest supporters, wrote, "How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!"
Vincent van Gogh Irises Dutch, Saint-Rémy, France, 1889 Oil on canvas 28" x 36 5/8" 90.PA.20