Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers are among his most famous works and are some of the most iconic paintings in the world. In an extraordinary exhibition, the Van Gogh Museum took a new and revealing look at the five publicly-owned versions of sunflowers in a vase. And once again, the Van Gogh Museum opened its doors exclusively to Exhibition on Screen.
The delightful Exhibition on Screen (we didn’t steal 2/3’s of that name on purpose, honest) brings us a look at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series. What is reminded is that Van Gogh was only an active painter for ten short years, so the amount of work, not just in his Sunflowers symphony of blue and yellow, created. A manic depressive man who needed colour and sun to help alleviate any worries he had in his life. So what better a subject to focus on than nature and the wonder of sunflowers?
Finding how Van Gogh was interested and heavily influenced with his paintings from the great Impressionists during his time in Paris is very enlightening and with little nuggets of information like this spread throughout thanks to our historians. These art history lessons are always worth your time, and perhaps this is the biased fine art student in me. But this type of history has always interested me. What Exhibition On Screen does best is that they try to widen their reach as much as possible to audiences by not keeping to a narrowed dialogue; they open it up while also touching upon the history of the time.
Utilising voiceover from letters to family and friends aids in bringing in the thoughts of the artist who was gone all too soon. While a lot is documented about the man, the moments we get that personal time with his letters, we feel like we are learning more about him. We understand the type of man he was and how wonderfully poetic he is when discussing the similarities between flowers and humans.
Also, getting information about sunflowers during Van Gogh’s time becomes interesting as well. They were not rife in fields and were considered merely garden plants from the Americas. As someone getting into gardening, I never expected to have a short lesson about the flower in a piece about an artist’s work. These are the special touches that Exhibition On Screen always bring to their audience.
Paced perfectly by spending the first 30 minutes talking about why Van Gogh began painting Sunflowers and why they were so prominent in the world of art during the 19th Century. In the “second act”, we venture more into descriptions of each of the paintings in the series with little titbits of the history of each of the paintings. Interlaced between this is the relationship and influence Gaugin had on Van Gogh and his work, another inkling into the ever-evolving working and living relationship the two had and the devastating results of when said relationship breaks down.
The third act focuses more on the research of his work with conservators who detail the fact that Van Gogh and his descendants never wanted to have his work varnished. Still, a universal trait to varnish his work by others caused the research centre to be varnished, resulting in difficult choices for the team.
As you would expect with Exhibition On Screen, they do a fantastic job in showcasing the artists work spread throughout the world and can bring that extra touch to invest you for almost 90 minutes. The only gripe? It should have been longer!
Sunflowers is released in cinemas across the UK from 8 June, including Curzon, Everyman, Odeon, Picturehouse, Showcase, Vue and independent cinemas. Find your nearest cinema at exhibitiononscreen.com
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