The Unique Inspiration Behind Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower Painting

shallow focus photography of yellow sunflower field under sunny sky
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on

In the late 1800s, post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh created what is arguably one of the most iconic paintings in history: Sunflowers. The work is instantly recognizable, with its bright yellow flowers set against a blue sky.

But what many people don’t know is that the painting was actually part of a larger series van Gogh did of sunflower paintings. In total, he created six different versions of the work.

Interestingly, the series was actually inspired by a completely different work of art: a can of tomato soup.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Van Gogh was a big fan of the soup and would often buy it from a local restaurant. One day, he noticed that the soup was served in a blue-and-white striped bowl, which caught his eye.

He was so taken with the pattern that he decided to use it as inspiration for his sunflower paintings.

The first version of the painting was actually done in Oil on canvas, but van Gogh was not happy with it. He thought the colors were too dull, so he decided to repaint it using brighter colors.

The second version was done in Oil on cardboard, and this time van Gogh was much happier with the results. The colors were much more vibrant, and he felt that the work captured the essence of the soup bowl that had inspired it.

The third version was done in Gouache on paper, and this time van Gogh added even more color to the work. The result was a painting that was almost fluorescent in its brightness.

The fourth version was done in Watercolor on fabric, and this time van Gogh used a different technique to create the work. He actually painted the sunflowers first, and then added the blue-and-white stripes afterwards.

The fifth and final version of the painting was done in Oil on wood, and this time van Gogh went back to his original idea of using a can of tomato soup as inspiration. The work was much darker than the previous versions, but van Gogh felt that it captured the true mood of the soup.

Interestingly, the series of sunflower paintings was not van Gogh’s only series inspired by food. He also did a series of paintings inspired by his love of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

In the end, van Gogh’s sunflower paintings are some of the most iconic and recognizable works of art in history. And it all started with a simple bowl of soup.

1 Comment

  1. This is such an interesting story! I had no idea that van Gogh’s famous sunflower painting was inspired by a can of soup. It just goes to show how even the simplest things can inspire great art.

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