Van Gogh painted a series of pictures depicting sunflowers, having first been inspired by the yellow flowers in Paris where he saw them growing in the gardens of Montmartre. They were a motif that
he returned to often, and in the summer of 1888 he embarked on a large number of paintings of sunflowers to decorate his studio and house in preparation for Gauguin's arrival.
Van Gogh's Sunflowers were symbolic of life and hope to the artist, and could also be associated with his concept of the sun - round, glowing, yellow and hopeful. It is extraordinary that the artist, who was so plagued with mental illness and depression, was able to have interludes marked by such a positive outlook, which was reflected in his works. In this painting he has reduced the elements of the composition so that the image is one of great simplicity, while also reducing the colours to primarily his favourite yellow. This reflects him synthesizing realism with pattern and ornament, so they are both highly decorative and almost symbolist in feel, but also retain a fundamentally real quality