Sunflowers (Vase with fifteen sunflowers)

Vincent van Gogh • Painting, August 1888, 92.1×73 cm
Digital copy: 1.3 MB
3961 × 4999 px • JPEG
73 × 92.1 cm • 138 dpi
67.1 × 84.6 cm • 150 dpi
33.5 × 42.3 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Still life
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: August 1888
Size: 92.1×73 cm
Artwork in selections: 106 selections
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Exhibitions history
Van Gogh and Britain
March 27 − August 11, 2019
Tate Britain, Milbank

Description of the artwork «Sunflowers (Vase with fifteen sunflowers)»

Dutch artist Vincent Willem Van Gogh is one of the most famous painters, whose name is wrapped in a shroud of secrets, legends, conjectures and is associated with genius next to insanity. Fate was ironic to him, as during his lifetime, he only managed to sell a few works, and his incredible talent did not receive his proper recognition, while today his canvases cost tons of money. Today, his works are the pride of the best world museums, and collectors are willing to pay any money for every auctioned canvas.

Among the large number of works created by the brilliant master, a special place belongs to the famous painting "Sunflowers", which occupies the minds of several generations of art historians. Despite the worldwide fame of the story, many people do not even realize that the artist has created a series of paintings with sunflowers, which is conditionally divided into two cycles. The first cycle, the Parisian one, includes pictures with lying plants depicted (1, 2, 3, 4). The second cycle was created in Arles; it includes canvases on which flowers are placed into vases (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

"Sunflowers" have become a kind of hallmark of Van Gogh. They occupy as important place in his creative heritage, as, for example, "La Gioconda" in the oeuvre of Leonardo or the "Black Square" in the oeuvre of Malewicz. Vincent is known to paint flowers often. There are his canvases depicting flowering tree branches – apple trees, acacias, almonds, chestnuts. He also liked to draw simple wild flowers – chamomile, poppies, cornflowers and even thistles. However, he felt special feelings for these flowers, he wrote to his brother about it many times. In his letters, the artist admitted that he associates sunflowers with himself. Perhaps it was due to the fact that they are yellow, and this colour is known to be his favourite.

This picture, created by Van Gogh in the still life genre in Paris, the master captured cut flowers lying in disorder. Their petals are ruffled and crushed, the image perfectly conveys the convulsive withering of huge inflorescences and thick curved stems. The future of these plants is predetermined, yet the picture surprisingly shows the great internal vitality and resistance to the inevitable fate.

The description of the paintings by the Dutch master, which were made in Paris, make a depressive impression, while the cycle of works created a year later in Arles is rather filled with light and joy. This is due to the fact that in the south of France, the artist experienced a great emotional upsurge. He painted these pictures to decorate the walls of his workshop and rooms in his favorite "yellow house", where he invited his friend, the painter Paul Gauguin.

Van Gogh originally planned to place the still life paintings depicting sunflowers in vases in their common workshop, where both artists were supposed to work together. He wanted to create at least twelve panels with his favorite flowers, but he only had managed to paint four pictures within the summer, despite his great zeal. He hung them in the guest room prepared for Gauguin.

Unfortunately, one of the works from the cycle of paintings by Van Gogh, conceived and created in Arles, was irretrievably lost, only its photo remained. This picture was destroyed during the World War II, military operations in Japan. The fate of the other canvases was more successful: one of the works from the cycle, depicting three sunflowers, is stored in one of the private collections in the USA, and two others, the most famous, are in London and Munich.

Every original picture by Van Gogh with these flowers has an extremely simple and concise plot: a simple rough vase with huge flowers on a surface. Flowers seem too large and disproportionate to the environment and even to the canvas, which creates the feeling that the petals of flowers are about to push the edges of the picture and penetrate into our real world. The canvases are created in the original "impasto" technique, which supposes that the colours are applied very densely, both with a brush, and with a knife and a palette knife. The rough canvas texture makes an illusion that the flowers are not painted on the canvas, but are a bit closer to the viewer, they seem to be moving, changing and swaying from waft of the wind.