Perhaps the most prolific post-impressionist painter of all time, Vincent Van Gogh gave us his mind, his heart, his soul, and, most notably, his ear. His works are probably better known generally than those of any other painter in history.
Born in 1853, Van Gogh was the son of a Dutch Protestant minister. Early in his life, he possessed a moody temperament that would later haunt him in his efforts to become a successful artist. His brief and turbulent life is thought to epitomize the mad genius legend. His difficult and contradictory personality was rejected by the women loved, and his few friendships usually ended in bitter arguments. Strangely, Van Gogh’s life had very little to do with paintings. By the age of 27 he had been a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor, a theological student and an evangelical minister. It was not until 10 years before his death that he decided to pick up a brush. His early work, the Dutch period of 1880-85, consists of dark greenish-brown, heavily painted studies of peasants and miners. By 1888, after working under Pisarro, Van Gogh began experimenting with a brighter range of colors that are characteristic of many of his later impressionist paintings. In 1888, in ill health, Van Gogh moved to Arles with Gauguin for a brief period for release from Paris. At Arles, fraught with internal tension, Van Gogh mutilated his left ear in the course of his first attack of dementia. His paintings from this period include the incomparable series of sunflowers: Two Sunflowers, Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, Four Cut Sunflowers and Sunflowers. Dr. Jan Hulsker, one of the world's foremost scholars of Vincent van Gogh, suggests that the sunflower series "perhaps more than any other of his oil paintings, have made him known throughout the world. They are often the only works with which he is identified." In recent years a great deal of attention has been devoted to the authenticity of some of the sunflower paintings -namely, the Yasuda version. Most experts, however, have come to the conclusion that the Yasuda work is genuine. Unfortunately the arguments about authenticity have detracted from more critical and analytical studies of the works themselves- involved critical commentary of the sunflower series is surprisingly difficult to find. Overall, Jan Hulsker's observation of the sunflower series truly mirrors Vincent's own- they would indeed prove to be the works that Vincent is best beloved for. Van Gogh once said in a letter to his brother, Theo in 1889, "You may know that the peony is Jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way".