The National Gallery received the second Sunflowers painting from the Van Gogh Museum for loan. The National Gallery purchased the other Sunflowers in 1924 directly from the artist’s family, and it has remained one of the most popular paintings in its collection.
Van Gogh painted a series of sunflowers in the summer of 1988, of which five remain – the other three are in Munich, Tokyo and Philadelphia. At the time, van Gogh was renting ‘The Yellow House’ in Arles, in the South of France, and invited his friend and artistic mentor Paul Gauguin to come and stay with him. In anticipation of Gauguin’s arrival, van Gogh created the paintings to decorate his room in what he imagined as “a symphony of blue and yellow”. For van Gogh, the colour yellow symbolised warmth and friendship.
The artist wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888 about the paintings: “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.”