There has been a lot of attention paid to sunflowers lately, and for good reason as they hav come to symbolize the strength and endurance of the people of Ukraine. But the symbol of the sunflower in the history of art is not new.

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Meg Black (2022). Sunflower, after Van Gogh. 6 x 6 x 1 inch. Private collection.

Why did Van Gogh paint sunflowers?

What is the symbolism of the sunflower that resonated with Van Gogh?

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Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers (1889). Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Van Gogh’s first career was as a minister. He wasn’t very good at it, and eventually was fired.

So, he turned to painting as a form of ministry. He figured if he couldn’t preach people to God, he’d paint heaven for them.

Sunflowers follow the sun as it moves through the sky. So, they have  historically been associated with religious devotion.

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Sunflowers following the sun. Sunflowers turn to face the sun as it moves across the sky.

This is especially true in the Dutch painting tradition of which Van Gogh was a prodigy. This sunflower painting is by the 17th century Dutch artist Maria van Oosterwijck.

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Maria Van Oosterwijck, Vanitas with sunflower and jewelry box, 1665.

I thought of Van Gogh when I painted this small,

I thought of Van Gogh when I painted this small,

6 x 6 inch sunflower painting as part of my Mother’s Day flower series.

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Sunflowers, after Van Gogh, 6 x 6 x 1 inch. Private collection.

This paining sold to a lovely collector. If you’d like a famous artist inspired flower painting for your mom, click to join my mailing list.  Subscribers get first dibs.

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