Culture, In Focus, Visual Arts

Gogh and his vulnerable sunflowers

The painting has only left Amsterdam six times in the last 46 years and won’t be leaving its location from now on. The painting will return to public life on the 22nd of February.


Glenda Arcia


On this coming 30th of March, the author of “Los comedores de patatas” (The potato eaters), “Los olivos de Saint-Remy” (The olive trees of Saint-Remy), “Trigal con cuervos” (A wheat-field with crows), “La casa amarilla” (The yellow house) and other important pieces of work, renowned world-wide and considered big sources of inspirations for artists of all types, will celebrate his 166th birthday.

When the world celebrates 130 years since the creation of the work “The sunflowers”, by Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890), it was removed from the exhibition hall and couldn’t leave the Amsterdam museum, named after the famous Dutch painter.

Since the 11th of January, the valuable painting has been subject to a process of restoration in the capital of the Netherlands, which will take six weeks and is in the safe-keeping of a team of experts from various countries. The painting, which can be seen again this Friday the 22nd of February, is part of a series of great relevance for the history of art and is part of other exhibitions in the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and the United States.

The director of the museum, Axel Rüger, explained that, at the same time as the preservation work is happening, the last stage of an investigation about one of the artist’s most well-known pieces of work is being carried out.

As a part of this study, it was decided that the painting was in a stable condition but vulnerable. Its extreme sensitivity to the vibrations and changes in the humidity and the temperature of the air makes it necessary to take extra precautions. “We must guarantee that is is moved as little as possible,” he pointed out.

The last time that it was taken out of this institution was in 2014, when it was moved to London, United Kingdom, to be shown together with a treasured collection piece there.

The final results of the investigation will be known in the middle of this year, 2019, but the experts have already disclosed that they have succeeded in identifying the exact materials used by Van Gogh for his creation.

They also indicated that the painting, created in January 1889, is based on the Sunflowers, which is exhibited in the National Art Gallery in London.

The Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage and head of the team taking care of these jobs, Ella Hendricks, explained that there are various layers of varnish and other elements which have been added during the passing of the years that are dirty and yellow, but that can’t be taken off because they are mixed up with the original elements used by Van Gogh.

Nevertheless, she pointed out that there will be small retouches needed to restore vitality to the painting.

The work will be ready for the 22nd of February and the star of the show will be Van Gogh and the Sunflowers, which will be inaugurated on the 21st of June and will be available to the public until the first of September.

The sunflowers is part of a series conceived in 1888 and 1889 for the Post-Impressionist master, to decorate his “Casa Amarilla” (Yellow house) in anticipation of the arrival of the painter Paul Gauguin, one of the characters he invited to create a studio in this region.

In spite of the failure of this project and the many discussions with Gauguin – after one of which it is said that Van Gogh cut off his ear-, the stay in Arles is considered fundamental to his work. According to experts, with the recreation in oil of the sunflowers in different tones of yellow, the artist demonstrates that it is possible to create an exceptional and coherent piece with numerous variations of just one colour.

Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo about this work: “With the hope of being able to live with Gauguin in his studio, I want to paint a series of paintings. Nothing more than big sunflowers (…)

If I complete my plan, I will do a dozen of them. The combination is a symphony in blue and yellow. I work every day from when the sun rises because the flowers wilt quickly and I have to paint them all over again.”

According to Gauguin, the sunflowers are a perfect example of the essence of the Dutch genius’s style, who created 900 paintings and 1600 drawings in just one decade, but who didn’t obtain the recognition and appreciation he deserved in time.

Because of misunderstandings and injustices he only sold around three paintings and exhibited his work very occasionally.

(Translated by Carol M Byrne) – Photos: Pixabay

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