Van Gogh completed Irises in May of 1889 when he was at the asylum in Saint-Rémy. Here he eased back into painting capturing flowers and foliage in the surrounding garden and the star filled nights from his window. In a letter to his brother Theo from May of 1889, Van Gogh wrote:
“The idea of my duty to get back to work occurs to me a lot and I believe that all my faculties for work will soon come back to me. It’s just that the work often absorbs me so much that I think that for the rest of my life I will always be a bit absent-minded and awkward when shifting for myself.”
Irises was shown with Starry Night over the Rhone at the the Société des Artistes Indépendants Exhibition in Paris in September of 1889. Following the exhibition, Theo wrote to Van Gogh in October of 1889 proclaiming that he thought Irises was one of Vincent’s “good things.”
“The exhibition of the Independents is over and I’ve got your irises back; it is one of your good things. It seems to me that you are stronger when you paint true things like that, or like the stagecoach at Tarascon, or the head of a child, or the underbrush with the ivy in vertical format. The form is so well defined, and the whole is full of colour.”
Today, Irises can be seen at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and is still considered one of Van Gogh’s finest works.