_Roses _was painted shortly before Van Gogh's release from the asylum at Saint–Rémy. He felt he was coming to terms with his illness—and himself. In this healing process, painting was all–important. During those final three weeks of his recovery, he wrote his brother Theo, he had "worked as in a frenzy. Great bunches of flowers, violet irises, big bouquets of roses..."

This is one of two rose paintings Van Gogh made at that time. It is among his largest and most beautiful still lifes, with an exuberant bouquet in the glory of full bloom. Although he sometimes assigned certain meanings to flowers, Van Gogh did not make a specific association for roses. It is clear, though, that he saw all blossoming plants as celebrations of birth and renewal—as full of life. That sense is underscored here by the fresh spring green of the background. The undulating ribbons of paint, applied in diagonal strokes, animate the canvas and play off the furled forms of flowers and leaves. Originally, the roses were pink—the color has faded—and would have created a contrast of complementary colors with the green. Such combinations of complements fascinated Van Gogh. The paint is very thick—so thick that both rose paintings were left behind when Van Gogh left Saint–Rémy on May 16, 1890. As he explained to Theo, "these canvases will take a whole month to dry, but the attendant here will undertake to send them off after my departure." They arrived in Auvers by June 24.


  • Title: Roses
  • Creator: Vincent van Gogh
  • Date Created: 1890
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 71 x 90 cm (27 15/16 x 35 7/16 in.)
  • Provenance: By inheritance after the artist's 1890 death to his brother, Theo van Gogh [1857-1891], Paris; by inheritance to his wife and the artist's sister-in-law, Mme Johanna van Gogh-Bonger [1862-1925], Amsterdam; sold 9 June 1891 to Paul Gallimard [1850-1929], Paris.[1] private collection of the Bernheim-Jeune family, Paris, from at least 1917;[2] sold 1929 to (Alex Reid & Lefèvre, London);[3] half share with (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold January 1930 to W. Averell Harriman [1891-1986], New York;[4] his third wife, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman [1920-1997], Washington, D.C., and Paris; gift (partial and promised) 1991 to NGA; gift completed 1997. [1] The painting is listed in the Andries Bonger list, no 264, as "roses dans un pot (fond vert bleu) / vendu le 9 juin 1891 à M. Gallimard à fr. 400." This list of 364 works by Van Gogh is in the handwriting of Andries Bonger, who was Theo Van Gogh's brother-in-law. The list is undated, but thought by scholars to be c. 1890/1891 ("Catalogue des oeuvres de Vincent van Gogh," manuscript b 3055 V/1962, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; transcribed and published in Walter Feilchenfeldt, _Vincent van Gogh: die Gemalde 1886-1890_, Wadenswil, 2009, and Walter Feilchenfeldt, _Vincent van Gogh, the Years in France. Complete Paintings 1886-1890_, London, 2013: 287ff; copy in NGA curatorial files). The transcription of the entry for 264 in Feilchenfeldt 2013 is missing the word "bleu" in the first line; see the Bonger list in digitized form at http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/en/geheugen/view?coll=ngvn&identifier=VGM01%3Ab3055 (accessed May 2018). Previously the first documented reference to Gallimard's ownership was a 1905 exhibition catalogue mentioned by J.-B. de la Faille, _The Works of Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings_, Amsterdam, 1970: no. F681. The painting is not described in Louis Vauxcelles, "Collection M.P. Gallimard," _Les Arts_ (September 1908): 1-32. [2] The painting was lent by "Coll. B.J" to a 1917 exhibition in Zurich, the catalogue not specifying Alexandre Bernheim (1839-1915), or his sons, Josse Bernheim-Jeune (1870-1941) or Gaston Bernheim-Jeune (1870-1953), who joined him in the art dealership. [3] Letter dated 7 February 1929 from Reid & Lefèvre to Bernheim-Jeune (Lefèvre archives, Hyman Kreitman Research Centre, Tate Britain, London, TGA 2002/11, Box 228; copy in NGA curatorial files). The painting was exhibited at Alex Reid & Lefevre in Glasgow in 1929 as "from a great private collection." [4] M. Knoedler & Co. Records, accession number 2012.M.54, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: Stockbook No. 8, p.75, and Sales Book No. 13 (copies in NGA curatorial files).
  • Medium: oil on canvas

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps