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Vase of Chrysanthemums is one of several still life depictions of flowers by the French painter Renoir (1841-1919)
It stands, for example, beside his near contemporary work entitled 'Vase of Lilies and Roses'. Renoir's paintings are characterised by their highly colourful style, but Vase of Chrysanthemums really is a riot of colour. It was painted in the early mid point of the artist's career, sometime in the period 1880-1882.
As can be deduced from the title of this painting, it depicts a vase filled with chrysanthemums of all colours.
Some of the chrysanthemum heads lie on the wooden surface that the vase rests on, but (contrary to what one might expect from the memento mori genre of still life paintings, which often depict flowers dying or dead) they seem to be as bursting with life as the flowers that are actually in the vase.
The whole painting has an essential vitality to it - like so many of Renoir's art works, Vase of Chrysanthemums is filled with possibility, dynamism and liveliness. Whether he was painting a human sitter or a vase of flowers, this was a key characteristic of Renoir's paintings.
Chrysanthemums were a favourite topic of many painters who were roughly contemporary to Renoir. For instance, Vincent Van Gogh, the Expressionist painter depicted several vases containing these flowers in his works, alongside other blooms such as poppies and cornflowers.
Van Gogh quasi personified these flowers, endowing them with an aesthetic that was similar to that of a lion's mane. Like Renoir's flowers in Vase of Chrysanthemums, Van Gogh's Expressionist chrysanthemums seemed to be so alive that they were almost moving of their own accord. Monet also created several paintings of Chrysanthemums, Dandelions, Clematis and a Vase of Tulips.
Vase of Chrysanthemums is often categorised as an Impressionist painting, thanks to its clear emotional effect, and the vibrancy of the application of the oils to the canvas. However, it is important to note that Vase of Chrysanthemums was painted at the period in which Renoir is generally deemed to have been rejecting Impressionism.
Though Renoir painted both human figures and flowers and landscapes throughout his career, he would also turn more towards depictions of the human form after the early 1880s.
This is because a visit to the museums and galleries of Italy left him inspired by classical sculptures of the human form. Thenceforth, he would endeavour time and time again to replicate what he had seen in Italy in his paintings, producing several pictures of nudes bathing, for example.
Aside from Vase of Chrysanthemums, other flower paintings by Renoir include works such as 'A Spring Bouquet' and 'Flowers in a Vase'.
The latter work was completed in 1866, and it is notable because of its dramatic angles as the stalks of the wild flowers in the vase veer off in all directions, leading the viewer's eye in a zooming tour of the painting.
With Vase of Chrysanthemums, the artist seems to have concentrated more on boldness of colour rather than creating these veering angles - the effect is one that draws in and focuses the attention rather than guiding it now here, now there across the canvas.