There are so many wonderful things about February’s birth month flower. I have written several posts about interesting facets of the seemingly simple violet. Today, as I get ready to bid farewell to February, I would like to highlight its color. In spite of the name, all violets are not violet. Violets can be various shades of purple and blue, as well as yellow, cream, and white. I have pink violets on my desk right now. But of course the most common color of violets, the one we see most often, is violet.
The color violet encapsulates a broad range of meaning. As we know from kindergarten, violet is a combination of red and blue. Some say because it is located between the primary colors and can be shifted either way it has no true identity. Others, like the Chinese, believe it represents the harmony of the universe, the balance between red and blue, between yin and yang. For practicing Christians currently observing the Lenten season, violet is the color of sacrifice, humility, and preparation.
One of the really neat things about the color violet is how the color next to it can change how it looks. Vincent Van Gogh utilized violet in many of his paintings, oftentimes with a completely contrasting color that brought out many of its nuances. One of my favorite paintings by Van Gogh is Still Life: Vase with Irises Against a Yellow Background. This is probably one of Van Gogh’s most well known floral still life paintings and currently hangs in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In one of his letters, Van Gogh refers to the flowers in the painting as “violet irises” and discusses his use of the color violet in contrast to yellow. I find it so interesting that the same shade of violet against a different background, like white or green, looks completely different than it does in Van Gogh’s painting. No wonder Pantone chose ultraviolet as the color of the year.