Neue Pinakothek


In August 1888, Vincent van Gogh had painted this image of radiant colour and positive life sentiment and destined it as decoration of his studio in Arles, in which he was going to paint together with Paul Gauguin. The artists depicted in a simple fashion, mostly two-dimensionally, the vase, flowers, base and background. The icy turquois of the base emphasises the shades of yellow and yellow-brown extraordinarily so that the flowers evoke an imagination of the Provence in summer and of a – in every sense of the word – glowing life, such as the one led by van Gogh himself. The flower here symbolises the sun, which the artist understood as a symbol of life and had already depicted in several of his works in a similar fashion.The simple form and the strong colouring were inspired by Japanese graphic prints so that at the same time the relationship to the so-called cloisonné of Gauguin’s artistic circles is visualised. Since van Gogh conceived the South of France in a comprehensive sense as imaginary “Japan”, where a happy life might be led, so the Sunflowers as well attest to this general idea. The Munich painting is not the only version of the Sunflowers by van Gogh but it is a particularly important one. The artist always regarded this version and the one in the National Gallery in London as pendants. Later on, he considered using two sunflower paintings as a particularly festive framework for his La Berceuse to create a triptych.

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