While walking through a museum gallery, it is easy to find works of art that have become practically equivalent to the name of the artist who created them or at least, to his or her method. This is the case with “Sunflowers”, the blossoms that make the subject of no less than eleven of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings included in two series (Paris and Arles). The eleven canvases are connected by motifs that flow from one to another: bright yellows for blooming flowers, ochre for wilting ones, similar positioning of the plants. And yet, despite the fact that they are very similar, each image stands out as a distinct masterpiece.
I selected one version of “Sunflowers”, an oil on canvas dating from August - September 1888, now on display at the National Gallery in London. The image is part of the Arles series and has been painted with the intention to decorate one of the bedrooms in the Yellow House that van Gogh was renting in the South of France at the time.
Painted during a unique period in Vincent van Gogh’s life, when the dream of establishing a community of artists in Arles with Paul Gauguin as a mentor, was fueling his optimism, the painting epitomizes happiness, devotion and loyalty. Outlined in various stages of decay, the flowers are invested with symbolism, reminding of the cycle of life and death.
“Sunflowers “displays an astonishing variety of techniques, starting from thick brushstrokes (impasto) and ending with pointillist dots. The artist, who was exposed to the bold palettes of the Impressionists while in Paris, violates their rule of placing opposing colors next to each other and taking his transgression to the maximum level, situates the yellow sunflowers in a yellow vase, on a yellow table and against a yellow wall.
Van Gogh openly recognized that his art was not a copy of reality, that he used color not to imitate nature, but to express emotions. Consequently, his images are attempts to show his feelings, to establish a connection with the viewer, thereby overcoming the emotional bareness that modern society creates.
Until next time,