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The importance of Van Gogh's Iris

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"The flowers seem to burst through the frame," says Midday art columnist Colin Bailey in this 1995 CBC-TV clip. He's talking about Vincent Van Gogh's Iris, painted in 1889, shortly after the Dutch artist voluntary checked himself into a mental health asylum in the south of France. Inspired by the view from Van Gogh's asylum room window, this painting now hangs in Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada.
• Vincent Van Gogh's Iris was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1954.
  • Van Gogh checked himself into the asylum at St-Rémy-de-Provence in France in 1889 after a period of mental instability and self-mutilation, having cut off his own ear. In a letter to his brother Theo explaining why he decided to commit himself, he expressed a "wish to be temporarily shut up, as much for my own peace of mind as for that of others."

• While in the asylum, Van Gogh painted a number of works featuring irises. One of the most famous of his iris paintings, called Irises, made headlines in 1987 when it broke a record to become the most expensive painting ever sold at a price of $53.9 million US. It held that record for more than two years. The buyer, an Australian man named Alan Bond, called it "the most important painting in the world.'' He acquired it with the help of a loan from Sotheby's auction house but was unable to repay the loan, so the painting was subsequently sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1990.

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: Dec. 6, 1995
Commentator: Colin Bailey
Host: Brent Bambury, Tina Srebotnjak
Duration: 2:08

Last updated: June 26, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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