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Irises of Vincent van Gogh Essay

“Irises” was made by Vincent van Gogh in 1889. It is an oil on canvas with dimensions of 28” by 36 5/8. ” It is a representational art that exhibits a posy of irises and a background of marigolds in a form of impressionist style painting, the subject not bent or twisted as to show a form of opinion from the artist. The painting, as it depicts a garden-like bunch of blossoms, may be categorized under the theme of landscapes as it displays a scenery without animals or people. Van Gogh, in creating “Irises,” mainly used contour lines.

From the painting, we would be able to see the blades of grasses surrounding the flowers as well as the thin stems and the petals of the irises itself with darker shades lining the edges. The marigold backdrop, however, and the piece of soil that shows itself beneath the grass were done in a more flowing gesture lines. However, though the edges of the irises, the grass, and the stems were defined, the lines are seen to be more implied than actual as the artist did not exactly lined the edges with a sharp black but instead outlined the parts by using a darker shade of color.

The definite lines emphasized a feeling of certainty on the painting. It created a constricted and serious mood, complimenting the concept of solitude for the lone white iris in a bunch of blue. The shapes in the painting are all natural and the colors used presents subtle contrast. Lighting seems to be natural as well, coming from the upper right corner of the painting and spreading out, as there’s no bright color painted directly on the canvas. The position of the blue irises and the blades of grass make the minimal light visible; the arrangement swaying some of that light towards the white iris positioned at the left side.

With the blooms laid out in such a pattern, the light has been stronger on the blue irises. However, it perfectly suits the artist’s idea. We could see from the illustration how the blue irises got more of the spotlight but they are leaning towards the white iris. In a way, it may depict how van Gogh felt during the time he was making it; he was in an asylum where people don’t actually pay him much attention. But somehow, their presence and his state feel like a strong force gushing and suppressing him. Only primary and secondary colors were used for the painting.

Made up with blue, yellow, green and white, “Irises” is a symphony of subdued tones. While the colors basically described the subject matter, the stark contrast between the blue irises and the white one emphasized how van Gogh views the difference between other people and himself. The blue ones, though they’re copious are all the same. They held no special characteristics. But the white iris is very different. Aside from being painted in another color, the iris also symbolizes purity. The healthy white somehow depicts solemnity and chaste unlike the tainted persona of the blue irises.

Without an actual contact one would be able to determine the velvety touch of the painting, considering the part of the grasses and the marigolds. But for the irises, Vincent van Gogh chose to use impasto as to create a 3d-like dimension for the blooms. The technique not only enables the viewer to almost feel the weight of the blooms but it also further support the attracting force of the white iris, as we are able to see the blue ones lean their hefty petals towards the direction of the white one; exploring further the burden van Gogh felt coming from the people surrounding him at that time.

Having used impasto on the piece, “Irises” somehow have a three dimensional feel. Indeed, with the innovation of van Gogh, this painting transcends the traditional and acquired a more dramatic aura. With this style, a viewer would be able to feel the lonesome solitude of the white iris and further sense the indifferent emotion of the blue ones. Looking more observantly, we may guess how the artist finished this piece. The piece is glazed and this is strongly evident in the use of layers of colors and especially the application of impasto, though the irises and marigolds seemed to be drawn above a light green base.

Expanding out our scrutiny, we’ll be able to tell that van Gogh worked on background first, having the marigolds and the soil appearing flat. As he continues, he might as well work from light colors then to dark, the dark colors appearing more solid and brighter. We could definitely say as well that the focal point of the “Irises” is found at the center left side of the canvas where the white iris was painted. The direction of every element in the piece points at it, from the blades of grasses to the blue irises and the marigolds accentuating its spot.


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