Vincent van Gogh - Flowers part 1

Self-Portrait 1886
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) painted Vase with Honesty in 1884, and would continue to paint flowers throughout his career. For an artist like van Gogh, who was struggling to sell work and earn a living, money was always an issue. Painting flowers was an inexpensive endeavor, and van Gogh wrote “And now for what regards what I myself have been doing, I have lacked money for paying models, else I had entirely given myself to figure painting but I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and myosotys. White and red roses, yellow chrysanthemums.”

In 1885 he was painting portraits of peasants and completed his first major work, The Potato Eaters.

1885 The Potato Eaters oil on canvas 81.5 x 114.5 cm
Having just moved to Paris Vincent was encouraged by his brother Theo to paint brighter, more colourful paintings, and his flower still lifes from this period, in 1886, reflect this. They are still predominantly dark, dominated by earth tones, but the flowers are becoming more vibrant and showing more colour. Paintings like Glass with Roses and Vase with Carnations show flowers set against a dark background, only the flowers with any sense of bright colour. Roses shine in yellow, carnations bloom bright white, red, and yellow, contrasting against the dark backdrop.

Some paintings from this period show vases with a few small blooms, while others, like Vase with Gladioli and Lilac and Poppy Flowers show vases overflowing with arrangements. Van Gogh had been studying the still life paintings made famous by master Flemish painters. This period marks a turning point in his artistic career where he is moving away from the darker paintings he was producing in the Netherlands and becoming interested in the more colourful works of the Impressionists. He was developing his masterful use of colour theory “seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet.”

The next year (1887) saw him painting much brighter paintings. His self-portraits, landscapes, and flower paintings were showing softer tones, lighter backgrounds, and beginning to show his quick brush strokes. (More notes in part 2 about 1887 onwards) This is part 1 of a 2-part post on the flower paintings of Vincent van Gogh:

1884 Vase with Honesty oil on canvas 42.5 x 31.5 cm

1886 Bowl with Chrysanthemums oil on canvas 46 x 61 cm

1886 Bowl with Peonies and Roses oil on canvas 59 x 71 cm

1886 Bowl with Sunflowers, Roses and Other Flowers oil on canvas 50 x 61 cm

1886 Cineraria in a Flowerpot oil on canvas 54.5 x 46 cm

1886 Coleus Plant in a Flower Pot oil on canvas 42 x 22 cm

1886 Geranium in a Flowerpot 46 x 38 cm

1886 Ginger Jar Filled with Chrysanthemums oil on canvas 40 x 29.5 cm

1886 Glass with Roses oil on cardboard 35 x 27 cm

1886 Still Life with Meadow Flowers and Roses oil on canvas 100 x 80 cm

1886 Still Life with Roses and Sunflowers oil on canvas 50 x 61 cm

1886 Tambourine with Pansies oil on canvas 46 x 55.5 cm

1886 Vase of Carnations and Zinnias oil on canvas 61 x 50.2 cm

1886 Vase with Asters and Phlox oil on canvas 61 x 46 cm

1886 Vase with Asters, Salvia and Other Flowers oil on canvas 70.5 x 34 cm

1886 Vase with Carnations and Other Flowers oil on canvas 61 x 38 cm

1886 Vase with Carnations and Roses and a Bottle oil on canvas 40 x 32 cm

1886 Vase with Carnations oil on canvas 40 x 32.5 cm

1886 Vase with Carnations oil on canvas 46 x 37.5 cm

1886 Vase with Carnations oil on canvas 46 x 38 cm

1886 Vase with Chinese Asters and Phlox oil on canvas 61 x 46 cm

1886 Vase with Gladioli and Carnations 78.5 x 40.5 cm

1886 Vase with Gladioli and Carnations oil on canvas 65.5 x 35 cm

1886 Vase with Gladioli and Lilac 69 x 33.5 cm

1886 Vase with Gladioli oil on canvas 47 x 39 cm

1886 Vase with Hollyhocks oil on board 94 x 50.5 cm

1886 Vase with Myosotis and Peonies oil on cardboard 34.5 x 27.5 cm

1886 Vase with Peonies oil on canvas 54 x 45

1886 Vase with Red Gladioli 50.5 x 39.5 cm

1886 Vase with Red Gladioli oil on canvas 65 x 35 cm

1886 Vase with Red Poppies oil on canvas 56 x 46.5 cm

1886 Vase with Red and White Carnations on a Yellow Background oil on canvas 40 x 52 cm

1886 Vase with Viscaria oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm

1886 Vase with Zinnias and Geraniums oil on canvas 61 x 45.9 cm

1886 Vase with Zinnias and Other Flowers oil on canvas 49.5 x 61 cm

1886 Vase with Zinnias oil on canvas 46 x 38 cm

1886c Vase with Flowers oil on canvas

1887 Four Cut Sunflowers oil on canvas 60 x 100 cm

1887 Fritillarias in a Copper Vase oil on canvas 73.5 x 60.5 cm

1887 Lilacs oil on canvas 27.3 x 35.3 cm

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