Painting Collection

Vincent Van Gogh

Vase with Carnations and Other Flowers


Vase with Carnations and Other Flowers
oil on canvas
24 1/2 x 15 7/8 inches

In 1886, Vincent van Gogh moved from Holland to Paris, staying for two years. During this time, he transformed his approach to painting, shifting away from somber and earthy tones towards more vibrant colors in thick, expressive brushstrokes and contrasting hues. In that first summer in Paris, he made this picture in a series of 35 floral still lifes, which his brother Theo mentioned in a letter to their mother in 1886: “He is mainly painting flowers, with the aim of making future pictures brighter in color.” Friends gave Van Gogh flowers every week to aid in his studies of color and form.

In capturing this tall arrangement, Van Gogh painted outstretched pink and white blossoms and drooping carnations in thick impasto, giving the flowers a physical presence in the painting. The blooms stand in contrast to the smooth bands of bright blue in the patterned backdrop, which flattens the composition. The artist creates the slightest hint of shadow and volume in the blue vase. In this framing and approach to perspective, Van Gogh was starting to find inspiration from the Japanese woodblock prints being traded in abundance in Paris at the time. The winter after painting this picture, van Gogh purchased 660 inexpensive Japanese prints from Parisian dealer Siegfried Bing, studying them as he worked.

-Danielle O'Steen, Ph.D.


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