At the end of the XIX Century, the sunflowers were very much appreciated as decorative flowers.
The symbolized the desire to live and the idealism. Sunflowers also were one of the favourite motives for painting. Van Gogh first saw paintings of sunflowers when he was studying the classics of Barroco in Ambers. Only in August 1888, he painted six sunflower pictures. A motive he used many times after that in years to come. He wrote a letter to a friend saying that he wanted to decorate his bedroom with half of a dozen sunflowers paintings, that will shine in the wall, with the bright yellow colours found in different backgrounds from softest blue of green verone to the blue cobalt, framed with fine moldings painted in reddish orange.
The painting of sunflowers of Van Gogh usually has twelve to fourteen sunflowers (rarely less than that), in different phases of growth, inside round bars. The bars are divided in two chromatic areas, the bottom one is a narrow surface, while the top gets lost underneath the composition and the arrangement of the sunflowers.
The twelve sunflowers in a vase are painted with a flat and doughy style. The cold turquoise colour of the background heightens the yellows and the yellowish brown tones and gives it a special brightness. Van Gogh repeated the same composition in the version “Sunflowers with Vase”, also of 1888.
In addition, Vincent Van Gogh created several “dead nature paintings” with dry flowers and without vase, like “Dead Nature with Two Sunflowers”. These did not leave as much margin for ample surfaces, but they were more adequate for his doughy stroke. In the sunflowers of they Van Gogh, the objects reflect in his volumes the tormented spirit of the painter, using the tense and curvy forms of the sunflowers as vehicle of his anguish. Not very often in the history of the art somebody has reached with as much force the forms, this function of the language of the psychic character.
There are many sunflower paintings of Van Gogh exposed in museums, like “Dead Nature with Two Sunflowers” (painted in 1887) exposed in The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art of New York, “Sunflowers with Vase” (1888) exposed in the National Gallery in London or the “Twelve sunflowers in vase” (1888), exposed in Staatsgemäldesammlung in Munich.