This is one of the many versions of ‘Sunflowers’ that Vincent Van Gogh painted. It’s the one found in London’s National Gallery which I visited frequently from my childhood on. It was one of those pictures I used to gravitate towards every time I visited; it was magnetic, irresistible.
I loved it partly because I had feelings about it connected with my own state of mind which I did not and still do not fully understand, but which feel important somehow: though what meaning Van Gogh intended it to convey I have no real idea. But that’s the thing about so much great art: it makes you tell your own stories, use your own imagination, beyond what the artist has imagined for you.
I also love it for its craftsmanship. The problem with reproductions in the case of artists like Van Gogh and the Impressionists of the same era is that you do not see what the original picture shows you of the way the artists’ work. With this picture, you can see every brush-stroke stand out from the canvas, giving the flowers themselves and the vase they stand in a sense of solidity, almost three-dimensional. You can imagine standing by Van Gogh as he painted and watching his brush action as he laid the paint down.
And the colours of the original are so fresh and bright, you can almost feel the warmth rising from them. It’s not a particulary realistic representation of sunflowers in a vase, but it has a reality that seems to me to be undeniable. One day I might work out exactly what that reality is.

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