Architecture and Design, Art, Paintings

Name Those Irises (and Win a Book from Getty Publications)

When we set out to design this blog, we looked at irises—lots of them. We asked curators and members of the blog team to pick favorite irises, both literal and metaphorical.

There were camera irises, like those in the cache of historic cameras in the photographs collection. There were flowers and fleur-de-lis. There were systems and signs, such as Alberti’s Renaissance diagrams on perspective and Alvarez Bravo’s optical parable.

Antiquities often have haunting eyes. Some ward off evil. Others are majestically blank, with no irises at all—a reminder of the paint that once adorned them.

We spent days gathering images from the collection. Portraits were inexhaustible: the deep-set eyes of a Romano-Egyptian matron, the dark glance of Cezanne’s melancholy young woman, Warhol’s self-portrait in drag. And—babies, horses, even birds with distinctive irises of their own.

But in the end, we chose the eyes you see here—youthful, alert, maybe a little sly.

Eyes (detail) - can you guess the artist?

Can you name those eyes? Leave a comment below with your guess, and tell us if you have your own favorite artistic eyes.

The prize? Irises, naturally: a copy of the book Irises: Vincent van Gogh in the Garden by Jennifer Helvey, published by the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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  1. Tyson Gaskill
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink


    (I like Rembrandt’s eyes best. Especially his later self-portraits; so much sadness in them.)

  2. Posted April 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tyson — You are correct, the (printed) irises are yours! These are Degas’s young eyes from his Self-Portrait of the late 1850s.

    I agree about the Rembrandt portraits — we looked at ones such as An Old Man in Military Costume for the blog design too.

  3. Paulo Klein
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    I think the name of this painting should be “EYES THAT SEARCH WITH SORROW”.

    For me, the most beautiful eye is the EYE OF HORUS that is depicted on several egyptian walls inside pyramids and temples.

  4. Anne
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Degas, and a wonderful example of the artist’s gaze. For another pair of unforgettable eyes, see the Van Gogh portrait of Patience Escalier at Norton Simon Museum.

  5. nelson balbela
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Degas , I remember when I saw that painting for the first time!.

  6. Ann Baird
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Those are very much the eyes of Degas. I recognized them immediately

  7. Denise
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Congratulations to Tyson! Ms Stephen,I really enjoyed reading this blog and learning about the action behind the scenes. I am looking forward to your next chapter.

  8. Posted April 10, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Degas, of course.

  9. Lawrence Lucero
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Tony Matos’ irises, just kidding. Those are Degas’ eyes. I have that image on a post card on my fridge. Favorite artistic eyes? Antoni Gaudi, his inclusion of textures and lines from nature in his architecture is a beautiful example of thinking outside of the box. Something good must be in that Barcelona water!

  10. Robin Mitchell
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Edgar Degas
    Self Portrait

    Favorite eyes:The Bronze eyes in the collection of the Antiquities Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

  11. Mary Ann Fueger
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I prefer the eyes of the Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer.

  12. Mastaneh oskovei
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Edgar Degas. Self-Portrait. c.1855. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. I did a color resurch from this paiter and foreacasted colors.
    Mastaneh oskovei

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted April 11, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Hi Mastaneh — You are right, almost! The Degas Self-Portrait in the Muséee d’Orsay is similar, but the one shown here is in the Getty Museum’s collection. The Musée d’Orsay portrait was painted a couple of years earlier.

  13. Posted April 10, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    A young Degas.

  14. Ann
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Jan Vermeer
    Girl with a Red Hat
    Reminds me of his Girl with Pearl Earings

  15. John Patrick
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    But don’t they look a bit like Paul McCartney? Heh…heh

  16. james behm
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    These eyes are those of Rembrandt at a very young age.

  17. Mary
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I think the eyes are Vermeer’s the girl with the pearl earring.

  18. Nate Rodholm
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    It is Degas. Painted 1957-1858

  19. Mary Costas
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    This is a self portrait by Edgar Degas. If not the same painting, it is one of those rendered by the artist in the West Pavilion. Mary Costas

  20. Holly
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I recognized those eyes immediately as Degas’ self portrait in the museum’s collection – but didn’t see the blog until a few days later. Fun game though, but a little easy for these art savvy readers.

  21. Cathy
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Those are the eyes of Raphael. They are also seen in the painting, The School of Athens.

  22. George Pal.
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Edgar Degas, Self Portrait.

    He should’ve been about 22 when he painted this one.

  23. Karen Schifman
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Is not anyone thinking of how amazing Mona Lisa’s eyes are?

  24. Barbara Malone
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking Raphael.

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      Photography of Troubled Dreams

      Japanese photographer Shiga Lieko works with local communities, immersing herself in them and incorporating their histories and myths into her photographs. Her series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore) was created between 2009 and 2012 in Kitakama, Japan, a coastal village devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. The images possess a dreamlike, postapocalyptic quality that evokes myth, natural disaster, and trauma.

      Six from the series are included in the exhibition The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography (through February 21).

      Three images from Shiga Lieko’s series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore), from top: Rasen Kaigan 39 and Portrait of Cultivation, 2009; Rasen Kaigan 21, 2012. Chromogenic prints. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council, 2015.1.2.–.4 © Shiga Lieko


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