Though Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is the most famous artist to be associated with painting sunflowers, Frenchman Claude Monet's 'Bouquet of Sunflowers (www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/437112)', painted in 1881, pre-dates van Gogh's work. It seems likely that van Gogh, who saw this painting, was inspired to later paint sunflowers of his own.

'Bouquet of Sunflowers' is an oil painting on canvas, and is nearly 40 inches by 32 inches in size. It was a painting that was exhibited at the seventh exhibition of impressionist painters in 1882.

A Painting That Comes Alive

There is a real vivacity about this painting, and the way the brushstrokes sweep across the canvas bring the flowers from Monet's garden alive. On closer inspection the flowers are not painted in delicate detail, but the effect the artist is trying to create is more about bringing the flowers alive to the viewer.

The richness of the yellows of the sunflowers is almost dazzling. Also, the way the paint is applied gives the painting an appearance suggestive of its being created by using pastels.

A Clever Use of Color

The dark and light mix of the leaves is used intelligently and skillfully. The leaves nearest to the sunflowers themselves, being dark, emphasize the brightness of the flowers to an even greater extent.

Holding the flowers, the vase is delicately portrayed. The attention to detail is exquisite here, and notable because it displays Monet's attention to detail, rather than just focusing on the flowers alone - which are obviously the dominant subject of the painting. The rich color of the tablecloth also acts as a contrast to the light colored vase.

Helping the painting to make an impression is also the arrangement of the flowers themselves. They are positioned in a way that holds a viewer's attention, and Monet captures the different individual shades and shapes of the painting in their different positions impeccably.

One could be forgiven for not noticing the background of the painting at all, but this is also created in such a way that helps to make the sunflowers jump out off the canvas. There is a lilac/rosy glow around the flowers and table that almost acts as a relief effect.

A Giant of Impressionism

Claude Monet was one of France's greatest artists, and was one of the most important artists of the Impressionists movement. 'Bouquet of Sunflowers' now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Illo by me.

This is an old article of mine which was previously published on Helium.com.