Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888 – Part 1

Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888

Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888

There are works that I cannot reduce in just one post. I’m thinking, e.g. in Hieronymus Bosch’s The garden of earthly delights or Picasso’s Guernica.

On Sunflowers, by van Gogh, we could write books and books, but we’ll try just to provide a global and mildly serious view of the work, writing a post in several parts.

General comments

Vincent painted many sunflowers. During his stay in Paris, he began with the motif. In that time, it was common that men would give girls a bunch of sunflowers to flirt with them. Once discarded, Vincent would collect them to paint them in solitude; and, because once pulled up, the flower soon withered; Paris’ paintings show sunflowers with few petals, melancholic and generally put over a plane surface. When he moves to Arles, he paints more versions of sunflowers, but this time, he does it in vases and combines blossomed with withered flowers. The version we see in Sunflowers of 1888 (which belong to the National Gallery in London) is the fourth essay of the artists, and it is acknowledged as the most achieved of the motif. Vincent himself, even, understood its effectiveness and, because of that, the three following versions are just copies of this one. From now on, when I say Sunflowers, I will refer to this version.

We know many things about this work. The technique used is mixed: in the background, we will see rapid and crossed brushstrokes, while, in the table where the vase is put, the brushstrokes are softer and linear. We also know that he painted the vase and the sunflowers before painting the background and the table, which is unusual, but perfectly valid. This is why, if we look at the borders of the flowers and the vase, we will notice that Vincent painted the background in this area carefully, which is also pretty unusual (for him). The x-rays showed, on the other hand, that the artist first painted 13 sunflowers but, as he didn’t like the result of the composition, decided to add 2 more.

Part 2

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on January 28, 2011.

84 Responses to “Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888 – Part 1”

  1. I think since you like Picasso, you might like reading my blog, on Leonardo and Picasso: Artists of Their Times: http://segmation.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/leonardo-and-picasso-artists-of-their-times-www-segmation-com/.

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  2. […] Part 1 […]

  3. […] Comes from Part 1 […]

  4. As a young child I always enjoyed looking at my grandmother’s painting that were hanging on her walls. I was very lucky to aquire one of those painting when my mother passed away. It is a perfect copy of Van Gogh’s painting of “Sunflowers”. I will cherish it for a long time.

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