Van Gogh painting some sunflowers, by Gauguin

Van Gogh painting some sunflowers, by Gauguin
Van Gogh painting some sunflowers, by Gauguin

This oil painting on canvas, specifically on jute, a plant of tropical origin, was made Paul Gauguin in 1888, during the months he lived with Vincent van Gogh in the French city of Arles. The work is currently on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

It is a magnificent example of the artistic relationship that united them. In fact, when Gauguin met the Dutchman in Paris he asked him to give him his painting of Two Sunflowers. And later, when he confirmed that he would come to live with him for a while in Arles, in the Yellow House, Van Gogh decorated the entire house with paintings of this plant, as a sign of friendship. However, it seems that the sunflowers and something of their groundbreaking spirit in art was the only thing that united them for a while, since the relationship between the two ended dramatically after different discussions and Gauguin's subsequent flight from the city of the Provence. Even so, and curiously, years later, in 1901, when Gauguin had settled in the paradisiacal islands ofPolynesia, he ordered sunflower seeds to be sent there. And with them he painted four still lifes with sunflowers, which have been interpreted as a heartfelt tribute to his companion. Although perhaps it was that he really was passionate about this plant.

Van Gogh painting sunflowers by Gauguin

Van Goghpainting the sunflowers, by Gauguin

Here we see how he portrayed it painting his famous painting of Los Girasoles. There had always been painters who painted other artists in the act of painting, such asManethis friend Claude Monet working on his boat. But in this case you can even identify the work that Van Gogh paints, his very expensive canvas of The Sunflowers.

The image that he presents us somehow reflects the peculiar relationship they had. We see Van Gogh from a high point of view. A little, as if Gauguin felt superior. He paints him with a disturbed look and painted in an unnatural gesture, with his arm excessively extended, in an excessively tense posture, which deep down conveys instability. In addition, he places it on one side, with the canvas on the easel at the other end, while the center appears quite empty, with simple horizontal planes, without any content.

Actually that type of background is based on theJapanese prints, which Gauguin admired for its lack of depth. Even so, you can see another of the influences that this painter had, this time of medieval origin, since in many of his works it is seen how he paints forms that recall the cloisonné of enamels and stained glassGothic, in which the shapes are surrounded by very sharp lines that create shapes that are filled with color, just like the metal sheets that support the stained glass. To this we must add the roughness of the peculiar fabric that he used as a support,which greatly textures the scene.

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