This is the first year we have had irises in our garden. After visiting Schreiner’s Iris Gardens last year, we chose and ordered some special irises from their online catalogue and planted them in the fall. They have been blooming in the last two weeks, and have been spectacularly beautiful! It’s been so fun to walk outside in the early morning and find another burst of blooms!
Of course, having irises blooming in the yard made me think of Vincent Van Gogh and his famous paintings of irises. I have the book, Vincent’s Gardens, by Ralph Skea, on my garden bookshelf so I pulled it down to reread and find information about those paintings. I love Vincent’s artwork, and I love reading about gardens that influenced famous painters, so this was a perfect book to revisit. And I was particularly interested in the story of his most famous painting of irises, which was painted in May of 1889, shortly after he was hospitalized for a psychotic breakdown. According to the author, Mr. Skea:
Vincent suffered four major mental crises in Arles, and became fearful that these psychotic attacks would recur with ever increasing severity. On 8 May 1889 he was admitted as a voluntary patient to the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, 24 kilometers (15 miles) north-east of Arles. Because of his fragile mental state, he was not allowed to leave the walled grounds of the asylum for the first month of his one-year stay. The often deserted garden, with its pine trees, lilac, roses, irises and overgrown lawns, offered him a calm enclosed place where he could paint and draw directly from nature.
The beauty of our irises brought us much joy this month, so I can easily imagine that the irises at the asylum in Arles would have been a calming beauty for a mentally struggling artist.