Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Arles, January 1889

Van Gogh’s paintings of Sunflowers are among his most famous. He did them in Arles, in the south of France, in 1888 and 1889. Vincent painted a total of five large canvases with sunflowers in a vase, with three shades of yellow ‘and nothing else’. In this way, he demonstrated that it was possible to create an image with numerous variations of a single color, without any loss of eloquence.

Sunflowers (original title, in French: Tournesols) is the name of two series of still life paintings by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The first series, executed in Paris in 1887, depicts the flowers lying on the ground, while the second set, made a year later in Arles, shows a bouquet of sunflowers in a vase. In the artist’s mind, both sets were linked by the name of his friend Paul Gauguin, who acquired two of the Paris versions. About eight months later van Gogh hoped to welcome and to impress Gauguin again with Sunflowers, now part of the painted Décoration for the Yellow House that he prepared for the guestroom of his home in Arles, where Gauguin was supposed to stay. After Gauguin’s departure, van Gogh imagined the two major versions as wings of the Berceuse Triptych, and finally, he included them in his Les XX in Bruxelles exhibit.

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