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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.


Paul Gallimard [1850-1929], Paris, 1905.[1] In the private collection of Bernheim-Jeune, 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;[4] Mr. and Mrs. W. Averell Harriman, New York; gift 1991 to NGA.

Exhibition History
Paul Cassirer, Berlin, December 1904, no cat.
Cent Tableaux par van Gogh, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, January 1908, no. 76.
Französische Kunst des XIX. und XX. Jahrhunderts, Kunsthaus, Zürich, 1917, no. 111.
Les Grandes influences au dix-neuvième siécle (d'Ingres à Cezanne). Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 1925, no. 8, as Roses carolines.
Trente ans d'art indépendant 1884-1914, Sociéte des artistes indépendants, Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, Paris, 1926, no. 2957.
Galerie d'art Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1927, no cat.
Exposition de Peintures de l'École Impressionniste et Néoimpressionniste, Lucerne, 1929, no. 24.
Masterpieces by Nineteenth Century French Painters, Alex. Reid & Lefevre, London, June 1929, no. 3, repro.
Ten Masterpieces of 19th Century French Painting, Alex Reid & Lefevre, Glasgow, 1929.
Exhibition Commemorating the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Opening of the Albright Art Gallery, The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1930, no.66, repro.
Opening Exhibition, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 1930, no. 10.
Still Life, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 1931, no. 18.
"Flowers" by French Painters XIX-XX Centuries, M. Knoedler and Co., New York, 1932, no. 17, repro.
A Century of Progess Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 386.
Vincent van Gogh, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1936. no. 58, repro.
Modern French Masters, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 1939, no. 15.
The Sources of Modern Painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (organized by The Institute of Modern Art, Boston); Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1939, no. 73 (Boston) and no. 49 (New York), repros., as White Roses.

Masterpieces of Art. European & American Painting 1500-1900, New York World's Fair, 1940, no. 363, repro.
Paintings by van Gogh, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Worcester Art Museum, 1942, no. 27, repro.
The Art and Life of Vincent van Gogh: Loan Exhibition in Aid of American and Dutch War Relief, Wildenstein, New York, 1943, no. 58, repro.
Collectors' Choice: Masterpieces of French Art from New York Private Collections, Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, 1953, no. 13, repro.
Magic of Flowers in Painting, Wildenstein, New York, 1954, no. 28, repro.
Albany Institute of History and Art, 1955, no cat.
Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the Public Education Association, Wildenstein, New York, 1955, no. 69, repro.
Masterpieces of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture Collected by Yale Alumni: An Exhibition, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1960, no. 71, repro., as Les Roses.
Exhibition of the Marie and Averell Harriman Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1961, unnumbered catalogue, repro. 17.
A World of Flowers: Paintings and Prints, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1963, unnumbered catalogue, repro. in Bulletin 58, no. 277 (Spring 1963).
Post-Impressionism: Cross-Currents in European and American Painting 1880-1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, no. 77, color repro., as Still Life, Roses.
Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991, unnumbered catalogue, color repro.
Extended loan for use by Ambassador Pamela Harriman, U.S. Embassy residence, Paris, France, 1993-1997.
Van Gogh's Irises: Masterpiece in Focus, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1999, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
Impressionist Still Life, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2001-2002, pl. 79.
The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2010, no. 150, repro.
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 21, repro.
Van Gogh: Irises and Roses, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015, no cat.
Duret, Théodore. Van Gogh, Vincent. Paris, 1916: repro. pl. VII.
L'Art Moderne et quelques aspects de l'art d'autrefois. Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, 1919:plate 61.
Colin, Paul. Van Gogh. Paris, 1925: repro. pl. 22.
Colin, Paul. Van Gogh. Paris, 1926: repro. pl. 26.
Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Epoque française de van Gogh. Paris, 1927:57, repro.
Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, catalogue raisonné. 4 vols. Paris and Brussels, 1928: 1:no. 681; 2:repro. as Nature morte: roses.
"Franzosen in Glasgow." Cicerone XXI (April 1929):243, repro. 237.
Mannes, Marya. "A Modern Setting for Contemporary Pictures" International Studio (March 1931): 24, repro.
Rich, Daniel Catton. "The Exhibition of French Art "Art Institute" of Chicago." Formes 33 (1933): 383
Scherjon, W. and Jos. de Gruyter. Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers sur Oise (Complete Catalogue). Amsterdam, 1937:301, no. 110, repro.
Faille, J.-B. de la. Vincent Van Gogh. New York and Paris, 1939: 484. no. 681, repro.
Van Loon, Hendrik Willem. "Vincent van Gogh in Baltimore and Worcester." Art News 41, no. 10 (1-14 October 1942): 17-18, repro.
Faille, J.-B. de la. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970: no. F681, repro.
Hulsker, Jan. The Complete van Gogh. New York, 1980: 448-450, no. 1976, repro.
Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Vincent van Gogh & Paul Cassirer, Berlin. Amsterdam, 1988:112
Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1991: 238-239, color repro.
Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 106, 202-203, color repro.
Simon, Robin. "The National Gallery of Art, Washington: Fifty Years of Collecting for the Public Good." Apollo 133 (March 1991): 152, 154, repro.
Walther, Ingo F., and Rainer Metzger. Vincent van Gogh: Sämtliche Gemälde. 2 vols. Cologne, 1994: 2:625.
Whelan, Richard. Impressionist Flowers: Art of the Bouquet. Cobb, California, 1998.
Welsh-Ovcharov, Bogomila. Van Gogh: Provence and Auvers. New York, 1999:repro. 224.
Yeide, Nancy H. "The Marie Harriman Gallery." Archives of American Art Journal 39, nos. 1-2 (1999):2-11, repro.
Rathbone, Eliza and George Shackelford. Impressionist Still Life. Ex. cat. The Phillips Collection, Washington, 2001:175, repro.
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 376, no. 309, color repro.
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 417.
Koldehoff, Stefan. Ich und Van Gogh: Bilder, Sammler und ihre abenteuerlichen Geschichten. Berlin, 2015: 158-161, repro. 158, color repro. 159.