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Vincent van Gogh


Sunflowers 1888
Oil on canvas
100.5 x 76.5cm
With fifteen sunflowers arranged luxuriantly in a yellow jar around a single flower with an eye-like red dot, Vincent van Gogh celebrates the vibrancy of life itself, imbuing each individual sunflower with its own expressional impact.
Van Gogh embarked upon his career as an artist relatively late in life, but left a legacy of over 2,000 pieces in a mere ten years of work. And of this rich legacy, his “sunflower” paintings are viewed as symbolizing van Gogh himself, born out of the travails of a short, intense life ended at the age of 37 when despair drove him to choose death.
Van Gogh painted twelve “sunflower” works, seven of which date from his Arles Period, perhaps the painter’s artistic high-water mark. Seeking the bright Japanese quality of light seen in Ukiyoe wodblock prints, the artist settled in Arles in the south of France, where he rented the “yellow house” dreaming of establishing a colony of artists. He had planned to decorate the room he prepared for Gauguin with twelve “Sunflowers.” Unfortunately, the “sunflower,” project ended at seven, and his communal life with Gauguin ended after only two months.
This work is painted on a portion of a 20-meter sheet of canvas purchased by Gauguin when he came to live and work with van Gogh in Arles. Gauguin’s “L’Allee des Alyscamps, Arles” is also painted on canvas from this sheet.

HISTORY

1853
Born in Holland on March 30 as one of the sons of a minister.
1877
Aspires to be a minister after working since 1869 at a string of different occupations, including art dealer, language teacher and book store clerk.
1878
Appointed as a missionary, but discharged the following year.
Looses his faith and becomes engrossed with sketching.
1880
Makes decision to become an artist.
1886
Moves to Paris to live with his brother Theo, his lifelong benefactor.
Becomes acquainted with Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin.
Is influenced by the impressionist school and Japanese Ukiyoe woodblock prints.
1888
Moves to Arles in February. Paints four “Sunflower” in August.
Begins communal life with Gauguin in October, but discord arises.
Cuts off his ear in December and is hospitalized.
1889
Resumes work at the end of January. Is in and out of the hospital, and finally enters the asylum of Saint-Remy in May.
1890
Attempts suicide with a pistol on July 27 in the Auvers-sur-Oise suburb of Paris, and dies two days later at the age of 37.