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From Vincent to Théo

“I am painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which will not surprise you when it comes to painting large sunflowers.”

Vincent Van Gogh - letter to Theo - 1888


Vincent van Gogh, Les Tournesols, 92 × 73 cm, août 1888 (Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Allemagne).
Vincent van Gogh, Les Tournesols, 92 × 73 cm, août 1888 (Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Allemagne).

The idea of bouillabesse clearly inspired Vincent, who painted between August 1888 and the end of January 1889 several vases containing between 3 and fourteen sunflowers, initially intended to decorate the studio he was to share in Arles with Paul Gauguin. This one appreciated them very much, and when he left Van Gogh in December 1888, he asked him if he could give him the fourteen sunflowers on a yellow ground, which Vincent refused.


Vincent van Gogh, Les Tournesols, 92 × 73 cm, août 1888 (Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Allemagne)
Vase avec douze tournesols, 92,4 × 71,1 cm, janvier 1889, Philadelphia Museum of Art, États-Unis

Nevertheless, Van Gogh would paint in January 1889 what he himself called a repetition of the originals, notably the vases with 12 sunflowers in preparation for an exchange with Paul Gauguin. In a letter to the latter, dated January 21, he wrote: "If Jeannin has the peony, Quost the hollyhock, I, before the others, took the sunflower"...

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