Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890) created over 2100 works including 860 oil paintings, remarkably within a ten year period. His dedication to his art was absolute, and he returned to it repeatedly as a lifeline in between increasing psychotic episodes in the last years of his life.
In May of 1889, a year before his death, he admitted himself into an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. During the first month of his stay, van Gogh began painting Irises, creating a composition defined by large swaths of blue flowers, orange marigolds, green leaves and red soil. Upon completion, he shipped the painting to his brother Theo, who was so taken by the work that he submitted it for exhibition at the 1889 Salon des Independents in Paris. Theo wrote to Vincent: “…it strikes the eye from afar. It is a beautiful study full of air and life.”