Plants in the Works of Vincent van Gogh

Throughout the study of art, art historians have used the contents of various works to not only identify the piece, but also determine the chronology, the probable location where the work was created, and even the season in which it was made. Art Historians have been able to accurately date works by Vincent van Gogh through the identification of the plants contained within. Being able to correctly identify plants in art is an important tool in unlocking not only the production date, but the true meaning of the piece. Plants, including flowers and trees are representative of important themes and symbols throughout art, and especially in the works of van Gogh.

Below are a few examples of specific plants in the works of Vincent van Gogh.


While he attended the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Asylum in Saint-Remy, Vincent van Gogh sought reflection in the multiple gardens and landscape that surrounded the homestead. The Iris flower was one of the many plants that caught his interest. The Iris is aesthetically pleasing both to the eye, and to the mind. Van Gogh's Irises which he painted in 1889, demonstrate his trademark vivid colors and daring brush strokes.



"These series of paintings were made possible by the innovations in manufactured pigments in the 19th Century. Without the vibrancy of the new colors, such as chrome yellow, Van Gogh may never have achieved the intensity of Sunflowers."


In 1888, Vincent van Gogh painted a series that revolved around sunflowers. He used these paintings as means of decoration for his guest house in Arles, France.However, he never reached the point of putting in guest house, and sent them off to an exhibition in Paris to be admired by many. Over time, artists have tried to recreate the paintings. They hold simplicity, yet the style and color schemes center around themes and emotions that range from happiness to death.

Corn Poppies


Fearing a second breakdown that would succeed the act of Vincent van Gogh cutting off his own ear, the artist checked himself into a mental asylum called Saint-Remy in France. Surrounded by the beautiful countryside landscape, Van Gogh felt inspired to render three variations depicting the overgrown wheat fields, cypresses and corn poppies. Created within the last two years of Van Gogh's life, "Wheat Fields and Cypresses," depicts a style full of turbulent emotions, with its dramatic brush strokes and brilliant use of color.

Cypress Tree

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Perhaps one of Van Gogh's most iconic paintings, The Starry Night was painted in 1889 during his stay at an asylum outside the city of Saint-Rémy. In constructing this piece, Van Gogh employs his token use ofswirling brushstrokes, and bright colors to achieve the effect of a moving, shimmering night sky. The addition of the Cypress tree, while not uncommon for Van Gogh, has recently been reexamined by Art Historians as to its true meaning in the piece. Today, this most famous of paintings can be found in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.

Mulberry Tree

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When one looks at van Gogh's Mulberry Tree , it is clear to the viewer that the tree is not some scenic plant used in the background of a landscape. The tree is the center of attention in this specific painting. One cannot help but notice the autumn touch van Gogh gives the tree, as seen by thegolden brown leaves the tree has. The isolation of the specific tree in this painting illustrates the unique sense of peace one can find in nature. Perhaps this sense of isolation speaks to van Gogh's own personal life, as he was alone in an asylum when he created this painting.