Van Gogh Sunflowers Live
Five masterpieces on three continents united on Facebook
In 1888–9 Vincent van Gogh produced one of the most famous series of paintings in the world – seven glorious variations of the ‘Sunflowers’
Today, five of these masterpieces hang in five art museums around the world:
- The National Gallery, London
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
- Neue Pinakothek, Munich
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art, Tokyo.
On 14 August 2017, in a world-first Facebook Live relay, the paintings were united virtually in a unique collaboration between the museums.
The relay consisted of five captivating episodes, presented by leading art experts.
A global collaboration
Click on the locations to find out more about the art museums who participated in Sunflowers Live
Meet the museum curators who presented Sunflowers Live
Vincent van Gogh
Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) is today one of the most popular of the Post-Impressionist painters, although he was not widely appreciated during his lifetime
Van Gogh was born in Holland, the son of a pastor; he travelled to London in 1873, and first visited Paris in 1874. Over the next decade he was employed in various ways, including as a lay preacher.
By 1883 he had started painting, and in 1885-6 he attended the academy in Antwerp where he was impressed by Japanese prints and by the work of Rubens. On his return to Paris in 1886 he met artists such as Degas, Gauguin and Seurat, and as a result lightened the colours he used.
In 1888 Van Gogh settled in Arles in Provence, where he was visited by Gauguin and painted the ‘Sunflowers’ series.
Van Gogh is famed for the great vitality of his works which are characterised by expressive and emotive use of brilliant colour and energetic application of impastoed paint.
View five of the original series painted by Van Gogh
Virtual Sunflowers 360
Take a virtual tour of the 'Sunflowers' with Willem van Gogh, the great grandson of Theo van Gogh, Vincent's brother and soulmate
Happiness, devotion, loyalty and tragedy
Van Gogh painted the 'Sunflowers' at the 'Yellow House' he rented in Arles, France
Van Gogh’s dream was to set up an artist’s colony, and he was excitedly awaiting the arrival of his hero, Gauguin, to join him in Arles. Two of the sunflower paintings (the London and Munich versions) were made to decorate Gauguin’s bedroom by way of a welcome to the house.
Yellow, for Van Gogh, was an emblem of happiness - in Dutch literature, the sunflower was a symbol of devotion and loyalty.
Gauguin joined Van Gogh in October 1888, but their experiment in communal living did not last long. The two agreed on very little, and as Gauguin said, “certainly not on painting”. Gauguin departed in anger around Christmas 1888, and Van Gogh suffered a breakdown.
By January 1889, however, Van Gogh had returned to the sunflowers motif, and painted a further three versions (now in Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Philadelphia). Two of these (Amsterdam and Philadelphia) were to hang either side of a portrait of his friend Augustine Roulin. The resulting triptych would be an image of consolation.
In the months that followed, Van Gogh’s mental health deteriorated and he tragically killed himself in July 1890. To many, the last years of his life represent the culmination of his artistic achievement, and the ‘Sunflowers’ a beacon of his talent.