Vincent van Gogh - The Iris 1889

The Iris 1889
The Iris
Oil on paper on canvas 62.2 x 48.3 cm. Saint-Rémy: May, 1889
Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada

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From National Gallery of Canada:
During his self-imposed stay in the asylum of Saint-Rémy Van Gogh ventured in to the hospital’s grounds, particularly the overgrown garden. The artist consciously connected with nature as it helped him maintain a mental equilibrium and progress in his recovery. With this painting, he studied a flower in close-up. The sword-like leaves growing around the shaft of the stem are carefully drawn and outlined with a fluid brush. The yellow dots representing wildflowers have been placed with great deliberation yet the entire canvas is full of vibrancy. Van Gogh’s desire to paint “a single blade of grass” stems from his lifelong appreciation and love for nature.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 16 September 1888.
My dear Theo,
It’s probable that I’ll have news from you tomorrow morning, but this evening I have time to write to you, and the week has been rather eventful.
I plan to go to live in the house tomorrow, but having already bought things, and having more to add — and I’m talking only of what’s strictly necessary — you’ll have to send me 100 francs again, instead of 50.
If I count 50 francs for myself for last week, and if I therefore deduct them from the 300 francs sent, I only have left, even with another 50 francs extra, the bare price of the two beds. And so you see that, even if I’ve already bought many other things in addition to the beds themselves, with bed linen, that I’ve spent most of the 50 francs for the week on it, and in part I’ve saved on one bed or the other by making one of them a little plainer. I’m convinced that in the end we’re doing well by furnishing the studio.
And as for work, I already feel freer and less harrowed by unnecessary worries than before.
Only if I take greater care, I hope, over the style and quality of my work, it will go a little more slowly, or rather, I’ll be obliged to keep the paintings with me longer. So that there’ll be things that hold together and complement each other. And also because there’ll be paintings that I really don’t want to send you before they’re as dry as a bone. In this last category is a no. 30 square canvas of a corner of a garden with a weeping tree, grass, round-trimmed cedar bushes, an oleander bush. Therefore the same corner of a garden of which you already have a study in the last consignment.
But as it’s larger, there’s a lemon-coloured sky above it all, and then the colours have the richness and intensities of autumn. Then it’s done in much heavier impasto, plain and thick.
That’s the first painting this week. The second shows the outside of a café, lit on the terrace outside by a large gas-lamp in the blue night, with a patch of starry blue sky.
The third painting this week is a portrait of myself, almost colourless, in ashy tones against a pale Veronese background.

I purposely bought a good enough mirror to work from myself, for want of a model, because if I can manage to paint the coloration of my own head, which is not without presenting some difficulty, I’ll surely be able to paint the heads of the other fellows and women as well.
The question of painting night scenes or effects, on the spot and actually at night, interests me enormously. This week I’ve done absolutely nothing but paint and sleep and take my meals. That means sessions of twelve hours, 6 hours, depending, and then 12-hour periods of sleep, also at a single stretch.
I read in the literary supplement of Saturday’s Figaro (15 Sept.) the description of an Impressionist house. This house was built, as would be the bottoms of bottles, of bricks of rounded glass — purple glass. With the sun glancing off it, the yellow glints flashing from it, it produced an extraordinary effect.
To support these walls of glass bricks in the shape of purple eggs, they had devised a support in black and gilded iron, representing strange shoots of vines and other climbing plants. This purple house was right in the middle of a garden, all of whose paths were made of a very yellow sand. The beds of ornamental flowers were naturally most extraordinary in their coloration. This house, if I remember well, must be in Auteuil. Without changing anything at the house, either now or later, I’d nevertheless like to make it, through the decoration, an artist’s house. That will come. I shake your hand firmly. I took a magnificent walk by myself in the vineyards today.
Ever yours,
Vincent