Tuesday 31 July 2007


While in Amsterdam recently, we visited the Van Gogh Museum and took the obligatory look at one of the several Sunflower paintings made by Vincent in 1888.

It's famous, of course --- iconic no less.

And yet, as often happens when one really thinks about those paintings that have become behemoths of art history, the Sunflowers is a puzzle: brilliant shades of gold, bronze and copper, of course; but the flowers themselves - so amazing when seen in their full glory in the natural world - are here depicted as being overblown and running to seed.

If I was to choose between this celebrated picture of what is, basically, a vase of flowers that are either dead or dying and Vince's slightly less famous (but, to my mind, infinitely more beautiful) painting of Irises, with its blooms tumbling across the canvas in a vibrant and exquisite sense of Life...

...then I think I know which floral arrangement would pass reasonable muster with Interflora and which would pretty quickly find its way onto the compost heap!


Katie said...

you are right of course.

but when I see the half dead sunflowers it brings to mind conversations about life and death. it is no longer a vase filled with flowers but a statement about his state of mind... about his view of the world. and in the painting we are treated to a small window of what he felt and saw.

but I have to agree the irises are much more lovely.

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks, Katie, that is a very perceptive observation - I like it... AND I like VVG's sunflowers rather more as a result!

Anonymous said...

Vincent painted the sunflower after his illness, after Gaugin left the house of Vincent.... One or two years after this famous episode (Vincent ear...) Gaugin liked this paintings of sunflowers, and Vincent, in a letter, talking about this change of mind of Gaugin, said to his brother Theo than the Sunflowers may create a triptych with a painting of a Bercuse (a french dame wich he painted many times too).

Katie is right, all the paintings of van Gogh are a conversation, his feeelings, his projects, his faith...and I think not all the painters are looking for this kind of self-expression

Sorry, I read "Letters to Theo" when I was... pfff,...very young... and I was impressed, not only with the paintings but with his literature, the letters are beautifoul..

(And sorry for my english...)

Eudora (from Spain)

Brian Sibley said...

EUDORA - Thank you... And no apologies neccessary: your English is fine! My Spanish is non-existent!