Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888 – Part 1

Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888

Sunflowers | Vincent van Gogh | 1888

There are masterpieces that cannot be covered in just one post. I’m thinking, e.g. in Hieronymus Bosch’s The garden of earthly delights or Picasso’s Guernica and, of course, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

On this painting, entire books can be written, but I’ll try just to provide a global and mildly serious analysis 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. At that time, it was common for men to give girls a bunch of sunflowers to seduce them. Once discarded, Vincent would collect these sunflowers to paint them in solitude; and, because once taken, the flower soon withered; Paris’ paintings show sunflowers with few petals, depressing and generally put over a plane surface. When he moved to Arles, he painted more paintings of sunflowers, but this time, he did it in vases and combined blossomed with withered flowers. The version we see in Sunflowers of 1888 (which belong to the National Gallery in London) is the fourth version, and it is regarded as the most achieved of these kind of paintings. Vincent himself understood this and, because of that, the following three versions are just copies of this one. That’s why, from now on, I will only refer to this version.

We know many things about this work. The technique used is mixed: in the background, we 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 somewhat unusual. 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 of this painting 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.

85 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:

    Thanks for sharing!

  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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