The Sunflowers

Van Gogh at the National Gallery

Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' was acquired by the National Gallery in 1924 with assistance from the Courtauld Fund, specifically set up for the purchase of modern paintings. The Trustees knew that the artist's paintings of sunflowers were inextricably associated with his fame. They felt that Van Gogh should be represented in London by a signature work, and the artist's family was prevailed upon to allow the Gallery to purchase the painting.  

The Courtauld Fund bought three other major works by Van Gogh during the 1920s. All four were painted in the South of France. Thus the range of the artist's achievement was not fully represented, and in order to expand the story, the Gallery has relied on long-term loans. These have come from private collections, Tate, and in the form of annual loans of individual masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1888 © The National Gallery
1. Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1888 
© The National Gallery
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Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
2. Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
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'The Sunflowers' display, 25 January to 27 April 2014, celebrates the National Gallery's long friendship with the Van Gogh Museum, which has extraordinarily lent its Sunflowers to hang beside the Gallery's version [1,2]. It also acknowledges both institutions' continuing research into Van Gogh's art. Extensive material studies of the paintings have benefited recently from access to non-invasive examination techniques through the EU-funded CHARISMA project (www.charismaproject.eu) [External link]. The important discoveries made with such research help to build a much clearer picture of the way the artist worked.

Exploring the paintings and their X-ray images

To accompany this feature you can zoom in and explore the London and Amsterdam paintings and their X-ray images using the 'Image Viewer'. You may wish to open it in a new window so you can view the enlarged images alongside the feature.

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