Description of the artwork «The Painter of Sunflowers (Portrait of Vincent van Gogh)»
The Painter of Sunflowers painting can serve as one of the most vivid reminders that it is extremely difficult for two truly creative people to get along together. Moreover, in such a tiny space as the famous Yellow House, where Gauguin spent several “unforgettable” weeks with Van Gogh at the end of 1888.
That time was very productive for both artists in creative terms, but their relationship could not be called good-neighbourly. Almost everything they needed was supplied by Van Gogh’s brother Theo, and Gauguin had to become like a nanny for Vincent who was surprisingly helpless in everyday matters and paid little attention to the mess around. Gauguin who already complained that Theo bought him “as a prostitute” could not achieve their mutual understanding either by persuasion, or by scandals, or by ultimatums. Moreover, the artists competed with each other all the time — both on the creative and on the romantic front. According to one of the versions, the main conflict between them, which ended with the cut off ear and the departure of Gauguin, occurred precisely because of the woman.
With such a difficult relationship, it is not surprising that for all the time they lived together, the artists painted only one portrait of each other. Van Gogh was much more interested in painting the friend’s chair than himself. As for the work of Gauguin, here you can see not so much a tribute to the colleague’s talent, as a sarcastic grin addressed to him. The artist was irritated by Van Gogh’s passion for yellow colour and his obsession with sunflowers.
Interestingly, Gauguin portrayed Vincent, as if looking down at him. However, such a view does not seem surprising for a painter who depicted himself with a halo later. The man in this picture bears little resemblance to the Van Gogh we used to according to his self-portraits (and a few photographs). Gauguin endowed him with large and rough features, leaving only a bright red beard recognizable.