|Four Sunflowers Gone to Seed, August--October 1887, Vincent van Gogh|
|Painter of Sunflowers (left) by Paul Gauguin, and |
Portrait of Gauguin (right), December, 1888, by van Gogh.
|The street corner in Arles today where |
once stood Van Gogh's rented yellow house.
It was destroyed by
bombing during WW II.
Gauguin eventually accepted van Gogh's invitation after funding for transportation and expenses was pro-vided by Vincent's brother, Theo van Gogh. However Gauguin only stayed for two months as the two often quarreled, climaxing with the famous incident in which van Gogh severed his left ear with a razor after an argument with Gauguin. What followed was a particularly dark period for the famously unstable artist. Van Gogh spent time in an asylum. During his stay in the hospital, he longed for the countryside of his upbringing in the rural Netherlands. The sunflower, which Van Gogh once saw as merely decorative, became something almost sacred, a symbol that represented light itself, an ideal of an honest life lived in nature. Van Gogh's paintings, he wrote to his sister in 1890, were “almost a cry of anguish while symbolizing gratitude in the rustic sunflowers,” an image that brought him comfort and familiarity. We might imagine, that they had a certain vital glow and form that could raise his spirits in troubled times.
|Fourteen Sunflowers (left), and Fifteen Sunflowers (right), 1888, Vincent van Gogh|
|Sunflowers Gone to Seed, 1887, watercolor study by Vincent van Gogh|
|Detailed closeup of a van Gogh sunflower.|
|Sunflowers, First Version,|
Vincent van Gogh.
|The second version.|
Van Gogh painted seven versions of his glor-ious sunflowers in a vase. One, the seventh in the series, was destroyed by an Allied bomb in Japan. They make up the most famous (and valuable) series of pictures in the history of art. In a staggering burst of creative energy, culminating in an agonizing mental breakdown, Vincent van Gogh produced a series of paintings of cut sunflowers in a vase. The pictures are now scattered to museums all over the world. One, unseen in public since 1948, is in the private collection of an unknown millionaire, revealed only to his closest friends. Five others are in museums in Philadelphia, London, Amsterdam, Munich, and Tokyo (the latter bought for a world-record £25-million in 1987).
|Sunflowers, third version, |
Vincent van Gogh
|The fourth version|
However, van Gogh didn’t just have an exceptional talent. He was also an astonishingly fast painter. The first four sunflower pictures were done in a week. But for all their golden, glowing colors, no one would buy them. Despairing, but not yet defeated, Van Gogh continued working at a furious rate through the autumn of 1888. He painted a self-portrait, a picture of fellow artist Paul Gauguin, who was with him at Arles at the time, and several famous pictures of empty chairs. Relations with Gauguin were stormy at best. Van Gogh was terrified his friend might desert him, leaving him alone with his demons in Arles. Then came the blow that sent him off the rails for good. Paul Gauguin departed for Paris.
|Two Cut Sunflowers, 1887, Vincent van Gogh, though painted in Paris as much as two years earlier, they seem they seem quite in tune with van Gogh's mind upon Gauguin's departure.|