GOGH, Vincent van
(b. 1853, Groot Zundert, d. 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)

Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers

August 1888, Arles
Oil on canvas, 93 x 73 cm
National Gallery, London

Catalogue numbers: F 454, JH 1562.

Van Gogh prepared for Gauguin's visit to Arles by painting a series of canvases to decorate the Yellow House. Out of this project came a sequence of paintings of sunflowers. They are important as a series, and are more than just interior decoration. Firstly, in these paintings van Gogh demonstrated a further aspect of his current studies of colour. They are painted mainly in variations on a single colour: yellow. However, instead of using violet, yellow's complementary, for contrast, he has introduced blue. Rigorous application of theory broke down in the face of a preference for this theoretically arbitrary combination. Its appeal lay in the fact that it had been used by a seventeenth-century Dutch artist much on van Gogh's mind in Arles, Vermeer. Repeatedly van Gogh associated Vermeer with yellow and blue.