In Paris, Van Gogh does not have enough money to pay models, ‘else I had entirely given myself to figure painting’. Instead, he makes ‘a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers’. According to his brother Theo, he receives ‘a beautiful package of flowers every week’ from acquaintances to serve as a model.
In these colour studies, Van Gogh seeks to apply his colour theory. This theory is largely derived from Charles Blanc. Blanc advocated for the use of complementary contrasts, that is, contrasts between the primary colours, red, yellow, and blue, and the opposing secondary colours, green, purple, and orange, on a colour scale.
Red and green
In this still life, the contrast of the complementary colours red and green is predominant. However, the red of the flowers has faded significantly over the years. In contrast to the impressionists, Van Gogh applies the paint in a heavy impasto. He takes inspiration for this from the Provençal painter Alphonse Monticelli, whom he greatly admires.