Van Gogh, Gauguin and Sunflowers

Inspired by Paul Gauguin’s impending arrival, Vincent van Gogh was determined to cover the walls of The Yellow House with paintings of sunflowers. August 21, 1888 Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo,

“Now that I hope to live with Gauguin in a studio of our own, I want to make decorations for the studio. Nothing but big flowers. Next door to your shop, in the restaurant, you know there is a lovely decoration of flowers; I always remember the big sunflowers in the window there.

If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow.”

Van Gogh did not complete the dozen panels, but he did complete at least 4 sunflowers in honor of Gauguin. Three Sunflowers in a Vase and Still Life: Vase with Five Sunflowers are two of those paintings.

Vincent's Three Sunflowers in a Vase Still Life Vase with Five Sunflowers

The two sunflower paintings he felt were good enough, hung in Gauguin’s bedroom at The Yellow House.  Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, a painting with a blue, or turquoise, background which is now housed in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.  The other, Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers, has a yellow background and is now located in the National Gallery in London.  Van Gogh later painted three versions of them.

Still Life Vase with Tweleve Sunflowers Still Life Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers

The sunflowers on the walls of The Yellow House must have had an impact on Gauguin as he later painted some of his own.  While in Tahiti in 1901, Gauguin completed 4 canvases of sunflowers: Still Life with Sunflowers and Mangoes, Sunflowers with Puvis de Chavannes’s Hope and two of them titled Still Life with Sunflowers on an Armchair.

Letter Sources:

http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/18/526.htm

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