I cannot walk past a sunflower without pausing to look at the flower and its stalks and think of Vincent van Gogh. He painted a dozen different versions of Sunflowers in three series. There were arrangements of clippings on the floor, some of fifteen in a vase and some of three in a vase. Within each series, the layouts are rather similar. Innovations in manufactured pigments in the nineteenth century brought vibrant new colours, such as chrome yellow, making it possible for Van Gogh to capture the intensity of the sunflower petals.
His first series was done in 1887, after he had left Holland for Paris. These paintings showed the simplistic beauty of sunflower clippings, and at least two of the pieces were intended to decorate his friend Paul Gauguin's bedroom. The seven paintings in his two different Sunflowers-in-Vase series were painted in Arles in southern France during 1888 and 1889.
Gauguin joined van Gogh in Arles and they shared a studio, in The Yellow House, with the hopes of starting up an new artist colony. In preparation for Gauguin's arrival Vincent painted the the remainder of the Sunflowers-in-Vase series for display in their studio. Their relationship lasted two months before each going his own way. Van Gogh and Gauguin never saw each other again.
In just over a decade Vincent produced 860 oil paintings and more than 1300 watercolours, drawings, sketches and prints. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the world's largest collection of his works, comprised of 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 of his letters.
Vincent van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 near Breda in the southern Netherlands. He died of gunshot wounds at the age of 37 on 29 July 1890 in Arles, southern France. His reason for suicide still remains unclear, like pages torn from a book. There is only theory and speculation.