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The Sunflowers Exhibition at the National Gallery

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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Van Gogh's Flowers Reunite

After the devastating storms faced over the Christmas period, the people of Britain could do with a little sunshine in their lives right now. And I can't think of anything brighter than the sunflower; tall, proud, glistening, gold, it is one of the most magnificent flowers to behold.

For me, whenever I see a sunflower growing in someone's front garden, I am reminded of sunflower growing competitions we used to have at school (I'm pretty sure mine was always the titchiest - if it grew at all).

The most famous sunflowers of all are not even real; they are marvellous paintings by the Dutch Impressionist, Vincent van Gogh. Although he suffered from terrible depression and mental illness, van Gogh painted his two Sunflower series during an optimistic period in his life (unfortunately this did not last as he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a couple of years later).

sunflowers, vincent van gogh
'Sunflowers', Vincent van Gogh

The first series from 1887 depicts the flowers lying on the ground, while his second series a year later shows the sunflowers in vases. Sunflowers were painted while van Gogh was staying in Paris with his brother, Theo, and then later in Arles. He had this to say about them:

'I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when you know that what I'm at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers ... it gives a singular effect.'

sunflowers, vincent van gogh
'Sunflowers', Vincent van Gogh

Now for the first time in sixty-five years, his entire collection of Sunflowers are being reunited at the National Gallery. The Sunflower exhibition gives visitors the chance to compare and contrast these masterpieces side by side. The exhibit will be open from 25th January - 27th April, and include his initial versions, repetitions, and The Berceuse-Triptych.
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Why? Fun for art lovers
When: 25th Jan -27th April
Phone: 44 (0)20 7747 2885
Where: National Gallery
Cost: Free
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