Sunflowers are my favorite flowers! There is something so happy and warm about a sunflower. They are like a little bit of the sun captured in a flower! The French word for sunflower is “tournesol,” which literally translates to, “turns to the sun.” Sunflowers can reach heights of 6 to 10 feet with each bloom ranging from a few inches to a foot wide depending on the type! The record is 30 feet tall grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer of Germany!
Vincent Van Gogh also loved sunflowers. Sunflowers, which hangs in the National Gallery in London, is one of the most famous paintings in the world.
Like many Impressionist painters of his time, Van Gogh painted still lifes of flowers. Many of the painters of his time had a flower that they were known for painting. Few, if any, painted sunflowers. They may have considered them coarse and unrefined, but that is what made them appealing to Vincent. He particularly liked the withering and spent blooms of flowers that had gone to seed. Even in his lifetime, he became known as the “Painter of Sunflowers.” At his funeral, family and friends brought sunflowers to his grave.
Van Gogh invited his friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin to the yellow house in Arles, France, where he envisioned creating an artist colony. In preparation for his friend’s arrival, he painted several sunflower paintings to hang in the guest bedroom. From 1888 to 1889, he created five paintings of sunflowers in a vase using three different shades of yellow. There were also two other versions, one in a private collection and one that was destroyed in World War II.
Many artists have been inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Paul Gauguin’s painting The Painter of Sunflowers is a painting of Vincent painting sunflowers!
Van Gogh painted mostly with oils in a style called Impasto, which is an Italian word for paste or mixture. It gave his paintings a texture that you can even see in pictures in a book or on the computer. Of course, there is nothing like seeing them in person.
The Art Institute of Chicago has several Van Gogh Paintings, including The Bedroom, which was a room in the house in Arles, France, where Van Gogh painted the Sunflowers. It really is worth the trip to see them in person if you can. Up close, you will be able to appreciate the way the thickness of his brushstrokes gives each painting depth. The colors he used, along with the thick brushstrokes, make the painting look as though it is still drying, as if it could have been painted today!
I hope that you are inspired by Vincent and his sunflowers. If you would like to paint your own, watch our Let’s Create: Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for some tips!
Learn more about Vincent Van Gogh and sunflowers in these books and eBooks!