Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

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Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, National Gallery, London

The Dutch artist Vincent Willem van Gogh is one of the most famous painters, whose name is shrouded in a huge number of secrets, legends, and conjectures and is synonymous with genius bordering on madness.

By an evil irony of fate, the artist, whose paintings today cost fabulous money, during his lifetime the artist managed to sell only a few works, and his incredible talent did not receive the recognition he deserves. Today, his works are the pride of the best museums in the world, and collectors are willing to pay any amount for each canvas that is put up for auction.

Among the large number of works created by the brilliant master, the famous Van Gogh Sunflower portrait occupies a special place. Several generations of art critics have been working on the analysis of this canvas.

Despite the worldwide fame of this plot, many do not even realize that the artist created a whole series of paintings with sunflowers, which is conventionally divided into two cycles. The first cycle, the Parisian cycle, includes paintings depicting lying plants. The second cycle was created in Arles and includes canvases depicting flowers in a vase.

Van Gogh’s Sunflower portrait has become a kind of calling card of the artist and occupies the same important place in his creative heritage as, for example, “La Gioconda” in the work of Leonardo or “Black Square” in the work of Malevich.

Van Gogh, Two Cut Sunflowers

In Van Gogh’s still life paintings created in Paris, Van Gogh painted sunflowers lying in disarray. Their petals are ruffled and flattened. The image perfectly conveys the convulsive withering of huge inflorescences and thick curved stems. Despite the fact that the fate of these plants is predetermined, the picture surprisingly conveys the great vitality dormant and the resistance to inevitable fate.


The description of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” paintings created in Paris makes a depressing impression. But Van Gogh’s Sunflower portrait that was created a year later in Arles, on the contrary, is filled with light and joy. This is due to the fact that, while in the south of France, the artist experienced a great emotional upsurge. He created these paintings in order to decorate the walls of the workshop and rooms in his favorite “yellow house”, to which he invited his friend, the artist Paul Gauguin.

Stillife paintings depicting sunflowers in a vase, Van Gogh originally planned to place in their common workshop, where both artists were supposed to work together. He wanted to create at least twelve panels depicting his favorite flowers, but during the summer, despite great zeal, Van Gogh painted sunflowers in only four versions. They were placed in the guest room, which was prepared for Gauguin.

Unfortunately, one of the works from Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers cycle of paintings, conceived and created in Arles, was irretrievably lost. Only its photo has survived. This painting was destroyed during World War II as a result of the fighting in Japan.

The fate of other paintings was more successful. One of the paintings of the cycle, which depicts three sunflowers, is kept in one of the private collections in the United States, and the other two, the most famous, ended up in London and Munich.

Each original painting by Van Gogh “Sunflowers” has an extremely simple and concise plot. A  simple rough vase with huge flowers stands on the surface. The flowers seem too big and disproportionate to the surroundings and even the size of the canvas, so it seems that the petals of sunflowers are about to push the edges of the picture and penetrate into our real world.

Due to the rough and rough texture of t Van Gogh Sunflower portrait, the illusion is created that the flowers are not painted on canvas, but are on this side of the picture, moving, changing and swaying from the wind.

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