Vincent VAN GOGH | Imperial Crown fritillaries in a copper vase [Fritillaires couronne impériale dans un vase de cuivre]

Vincent VAN GOGH
The Netherlands 1853 – France 1890

Imperial Crown fritillaries in a copper vase
[Fritillaires couronne impériale dans un vase de cuivre]
oil on canvas
canvas 73.0 (h) x 60.5 (w) cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris , Bequest of Count Isaac de Camondo 1911
© RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

This vase of orange and golden flowers is transformed by Vincent van Gogh into a riotous celebration of colour, texture and light. The joyous application of paint conveys the artist’s elevated mood during the period where he lived with his brother, Theo in Paris.

Acquaintances of van Gogh’s gave him flowers every week to use as models for studies. These spectacular blooms are the flower known as the Imperial Crown or Kaiser’s Crown fritillary, which can be seen in European gardens in late April and May.

The golden flowers stand tall in a copper vase with a few stray specimens balancing the vertical thrust of the arrangement. The shiny patina of the copper vase reflects the colourful flowers and a speckled wall vibrates with a combination of blue, green and yellow hues with flecks of white. Highlights of lavender form a halo around the vase. During this time, van Gogh was experimenting with combinations of opposing colours: in this case, blue and orange; yellow and violet.

Van Gogh’s energetic rendition of a vase of golden blooms in a highly reflective copper vase simulates the heat and light of a glowing sun in front of a starry night sky. This painting foreshadows the moody blues and vibrant golds he uses in a number of other paintings in this exhibition such as Starry night and bedroom at Arles.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2009
From audio tour Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and beyond Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay