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"You may know that the peony is Jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way."

Vincent van Gogh (to Theo)
Letter 573
22 or 23 January 1889


Dr. Jan Hulsker, one of the world's foremost scholars of Vincent van Gogh, suggests that the sunflower series "perhaps more than any other of his paintings, have made him known throughout the world. They are often the only works with which he is identified."

Below is a complete listing of the sunflower works. When most people think of Van Gogh's sunflower paintings, they generally think of the works produced in Arles, France during 1888-89. However, I'm also including the four earlier sunflower paintings from Vincent's Paris period. While these four works are starkly different than the Arles sunflower series, they nevertheless reflect an outstanding achievement in Vincent's evolution as a painter.

In recent years a great deal of attention has been devoted to the authenticity of some of the sunflower paintings (namely, the Yasuda version) Most experts, however, have come to the conclusion that the Yasuda work is genuine. Unfortunately the arguments about authenticity have detracted from more critical and analytical studies of the works themselves--involved critical commentary of the sunflower series is surprisingly difficult to find.

In the weeks and months to come I hope to provide more commentary and analysis of these famous paintings. Jan Hulsker's observation of the sunflower series truly mirrors Vincent's own--they would indeed prove to be the works that Vincent is best beloved for.

The Paris sunflowers

Painting Name

Date

Current Location

F

JH

Thumbnail

Four Cut Sunflowers August-September, 1887 Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum 452 1330

Two Cut Sunflowers August-September, 1887 Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum 377 1328

Two Cut Sunflowers August-September, 1887 Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern 376 1331

Two Cut Sunflowers August-September, 1887 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 375 1329


The Arles sunflowers

Painting Name

Date

Current Location

F

JH

Thumbnail

Still Life: Vase with Five Sunflowers August, 1888 Destroyed by fire in the Second World War (formerly in Yokohama) 459 1560

Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers January, 1889 Tokyo, Sompo Japan Museum of Art 457 1666

Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers August, 1888 London, National Gallery 454 1562

Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers January, 1889 Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum 458 1667

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers August, 1888 Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Neue Pinakothek 456 1561

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers January, 1889 Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art 455 1668

Three Sunflowers in a Vase August, 1888 United States, private collection 453 1559

Recommended reading

I feel the desire to renew myself, and to try to apologize for the fact that my pictures are after all almost a cry of anguish, although in the rustic sunflower they may symbolize gratitude.

Vincent van Gogh (to Wil)
Letter W20
c. 20 February 1890


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