One of my favorite flowers is the bright, yellow sunflower that adorns many gardens in the high desert of Northern Nevada and The Great Basin.
Before attending a Van Gogh show in Reno, I was not a fan of this painter. By the time I left, I was. My favorite paintings included those with sunflowers.
“Vincent van Gogh began painting sunflowers during his stay in Paris from 1886 to 1888,” according to AI-Pro. “His choice to paint sunflowers can be understood in several ways. First, van Gogh was heavily influenced by the Impressionist and Neo-impressionist movements during his time in Paris. Both of these movements emphasized the use of bright, vibrant colors and light. Sunflowers, with their yellow and gold hues, aligned perfectly with what these art movements encouraged.
“Secondly, sunflowers held emotional and symbolic significance for van Gogh. He saw them as symbols of happiness, but also of gratitude. They expressed his gratitude for the friendship of fellow painters, like Paul Gauguin, to whom he sent a few of his sunflower paintings as a gift, expressing an excitement for Gauguin’s visit to his house in Arles, which he called the ‘yellow house.’”
“He would compare himself to the plant,” AI-Pro noted. “He once told his brother Theo that he, too, was like a sunflower, constantly seeking light. As such, in his sunflower series (especially the ones he painted while in the south of France), the blooms served as reflections of himself.’
Economic constraints also played a role in van Gogh’s decision to paint sunflowers.
“He often struggled financially and thus had to paint things that were inexpensive and readily available,” AI-Pro noted. “Sunflowers, which were abundant in the region, were a natural choice. Overall, the sunflower can be seen as van Gogh’s mark of signature. They were not just still life representations in his paintings, but they carried deep emotional and symbolic meanings for the artist.”