Paul Gauguin
(Paris, 1848-1903, Hiva-hoa, Marquesas, Südsee)
Sunflowers on an Armchair, 1901
Oil on canvas, 68 x 75.5 cm
Signed & dated lower right: P. Gauguin 1901
Wildenstein 602
From his very beginnings as an amateur Sunday painter, Gauguin continually painted still lifes, following the lead of Cézanne, whom he admired. He owned a still life by the latter which not only appears as the background of the female portrait in Chicago (Art Institute), but also quite obviously influenced him in painting his own still lifes. Gauguin's first independent achievements in this field were done in Brittany between 1888 and 1890; the transverse oval still lifes can be regarded as preliminary versions of the Bührle Collection's "Still Life with Sunflowers" of 1901. Georges Wildenstein, with regard to this painting, refers to a letter from Gauguin to his friend, the sculptor Daniel de Monfreid, dated October 1898, in which he asks for flower seeds and bulbs for his small garden. His painterly eye was delighted and inspired by these self-grown sunflowers, as evidenced by the four sunflower still lifes done in rapid succession in Tahiti in 1901. The picture in the Hermitage in Leningrad has the closest affinities to our painting. For Gauguin, whose thoughts always went back to France from Tahiti, sunflowers must have always recalled van Gogh and the sojourn in Arles in 1888.