Published on May 29th, 2021 | by Chris O'Connor
Sunflowers Movie Review
Summary: Vincent Van Gough made an unquestionable mark on the world of art and his paintings of Sunflowers are iconic the world over.
Whether you are an art aficionado or someone who simply “knows what I like”, you will no doubt be familiar with Vincent Van Gogh and his works. Along with Starry Night, Sunflowers have to be some of Van Gogh’s most well known paintings and yet the story behind them is perhaps less well known.
I like to think of myself falling between the two levels of art knowledge… I’m certainly no art historian or expert… but I think I know/appreciate art more than the average person, so Van Gogh has of course been a familiar name to me for some time but I think I had forgotten (or not realised) that Sunflowers were not a single painting but a series of paintings. Director David Bickerstaff creates an informative piece that not only explores what the sunflowers meant to Van Gogh but also put them into context of the time at which they were painted via a botanist who explains the impact the iconic flowers would have had when they were introduced into Europe.
Via Vincent’s own letters we get some insight into his thinking at the time he was creating the paintings, his passion for the subject and what he hoped to achieve with them. We get some wonderful imagery with closeups that show just how much his paintings crossed the boundary of simply paint on canvas and into the world of sculpting. The sense of passion and purpose in the images are brought out by the intimate visuals put on screen.
I think for me the most striking segment of the film is when we get to see the results of the clinical examination of the paintings, the reconstruction of what they would have looked like when freshly painted (seeing the impact time has had on the vibrancy of the colours over time compared to what they most likely looked like when still fresh on the canvas is quite striking).
We have detailed explanations of the five main Sunflower paintings, their context in regards to each other, how they came to be and the sad story of the loss of one. Seeing each of the paintings in their current homes, the way they are presented from one to the next is quite lovely and at time when visiting galleries is not an option for everyone it does serve as a wonderful virtual tour of some truly striking pieces of art. When it is pointed out that the painting essentially just uses yellow paint… it makes you think and appreciate just what a talent was behind the image given how vibrant and distinctive it is with such a limited range of colour.
For the casual observer or the true art fan, this documentary is a lovely dive into the artist and the art that has stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to impress people for generations to come.