Symbols of happiness
The Sunflowers is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery. It is the painting that is most often reproduced on cards, posters, mugs, tea-towels and stationery. It was also the picture that Van Gogh was most proud of.
It was painted during a rare period of excited optimism, while Van Gogh awaited the arrival of his hero, the avant-garde painter Paul Gauguin.
The lonely and passionate Vincent had moved to Arles, in the South of France, where he dreamed of setting up a community of artists with Gauguin as its mentor.
The 'Sunflowers' was intended to impress Gauguin and was a gesture of friendship. The alliance was to end in disaster.
Next: Why sunflowers?