'Tournesol Yellow'

A symphony in blue and yellow was how Van Gogh thought the interior of the yellow house should appear when Gauguin arrived. He wanted to impress his friend with a series of decorative still lifes of sunflowers. These still lifes were to grace the walls of Gauguin's bedroom. Van Gogh started the series with great ardour. He had to work quickly as the flowers quickly wilted in a vase: 'I am painting with the enthusiasm of a resident of Marseilles eating bouillabaisse [Provençal fish soup], which shall not surprise you, when it involves painting large sunflowers'. Gauguin considered the paintings highly successful and declared that sunflowers should be Van Gogh's trademark. In 1889 Van Gogh tackled the motif once more, in this canvas now in the Van Gogh Museum.

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'Almond Blossom Blue'

In January 1890 Theo wrote to Vincent that his wife Johanna had given birth to a son. The baby was to be named Vincent Willem, after his godfather. As a gift for the new arrival Vincent painted a picture of one of his favourite subjects, large branches of blossom against a blue sky. He thought that the work could be hung above Theo's marital bed. Vincent chose the branches of the almond tree as a symbol of new life for the almond is one of the earliest trees to blossom, heralding spring in February. The artist drew his inspiration for the well-defined contouring and positioning of the tree in the picture plane from Japanese prints.

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‘The painting comes to me as if in a dream’

Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, Arles, 25 September 1888