Part of Van Gogh's Paris Sunflowers series
Author: Vincent van Gogh
Technique: Oil on canvas
Genre(s): Still life, flower
Location: Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherland
Estimated value (2014): $120 million *Based on the sales of his other paintings and adjusted for inflation & value appreciation.
Popular Verdict (polls): 69% liked, 14% disliked
Google Trends: Sunflowers series ranks higher than both Picasso's Weeping Woman and Monet's Waterlilies.
History: There are at least seven paintings in the Dutch painter's Paris Sunflowers series. The sunflowers in these paintings are portrayed as cut flowers lying on the ground.
Just as Monet is renowned for his waterlily paintings, Van Gogh is equally known for his sunflower paintings. In fact, sunflowers starred in most of the artist’s still lifes. Van Gogh’s famed series on sunflowers depicts the entire lifespan of the flower, from fully in bloom to decay. Each sunflower painting appears to parallel a stage in the painter’s tragic life.
The featured painting coincided with one of the darkest periods in Van Gogh’s life, as the artist struggled to control his suicidal thoughts amid major life disappointments. He would end his emotionally distraught life not too long after the last of the sunflower paintings.
In term of techniques, the painting is a masterpiece. Van Gogh applied paint-laden brushstrokes with highest precision to give the "dying" sunflowers a realistic look. In addition, the background colors (dark blue and black) express a world of hopelessness and despair. Van Gogh did well to blend realism (dying sunflowers) with abstract elements (expressive background) to create a morbid mood.