Flowers were one of van Gogh’s favourite things to paint.
He created a whole Sunflowers series while in Arles, in order to gift them to his colleague, Gauguin, who was coming to stay with him at the Yellow House. Although sunflowers might represent the luminous south of France, they still remind us the mortality of human nature.
In 1889 van Gogh was forced to leave Arles due to a signed petition that declared him a “public danger”, so he travelled to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and admitted himself to an asylum. At Saint-Rémy his flower-of-choice shifted from sunflowers to irises and his palette was full of darker halftones, just like his mental state.
Painted a year before his suicide, while suffering from epileptoid psychosis, this is one of my favourite paintings by van Gogh. With lighter chromatic contrasts than usual and rather gloomy colours, Irises just brings to my mind the clouds that one might feel over his head with no apparent reason.
Reference book: BRUG A. (2004), van Gogh, Munich: Prestel