Monticelli, who had died the year before this painting was completed, had a major influence on Van Gogh's style. The Dutch painter had seen a display of his works in Paris in 1886, and was subsequently inspired to complete his own series of still life paintings. Van Gogh was open about the influence that Monticelli had on his work. In particular, seeing the works in Paris inspired Van Gogh to change the colour palette that he had previously been using, instead opting for brighter, bolder colours in the foreground that would make a contrast with a darker, often black, background.
Despite the clear influence that Monticelli had on Van Gogh, the difference in generation between the two painters is obvious when their works are compared. Monticelli was part of the generation before the Impressionists, and his paintings were completed in a more realistic style. By contrast, Van Gogh's Post-Impressionist works show far more freedom in his use of bold brushwork. Poppy Flowers, like many of Van Gogh's other works, shows the difference between smaller brush strokes in the flowers, and thickers ones to create the background.
This painting combines two themes that were common throughout Van Gogh's career: the poppy flower, and the concept of the still life. Poppies were a flower that he frequently painted, although usually in landscape scenes. Here, they appear in a still life. Still life images of flowers in vases were a frequent subject of the famous Dutch painter, who also depicted carnations, irises, roses, and, most notably, sunflowers. Poppy Flowers features many of the hallmarks of a classic Van Gogh painting. The colours are bold, and the background is picked out with dramatic, impulsive brush strokes. Like most of his works, this painting is oil on canvas.
The current location of Poppy Flowers is unknown, following its theft in August 2010. It had been hanging in the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt, where it had previously been stolen once before. The first time that Poppy Flowers was stolen was the 4th of June 1977. Ten years later, it was recovered in Kuwait. The painting was stolen for a second time in August 2010. Although the Egyptian officials followed some seemingly promising leads in the months after the theft, they ultimately came out empty-handed. To this day, the painting's whereabouts are a mystery, and a reward of 1,000,000 Egyptian pounds has been offered by the Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris for any information that might lead to its recovery.