In cinemas across the UK from 8th June, Sunflowers is the latest showpiece from Exhibition on the Screen, the experts on bringing the best of the art galleries from around the world, this time in a feature length documentary about Van Gogh’s unmistakable Sunflowers.
Directed by David Bickerstaff the story begins with the installation of the Sunflowers exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam where extensive research has been done on the paintings. With expert talking heads from all the exhibiting galleries, including Munich, London, Tokyo and Philadelphia, all blended together with a subtle unobtrusive re-enactment of Van Gogh by Jamie De Courcey that combines to make this a thorough and entertaining exploration of this most famous art work.
The documentary goes through a brief account of the artist’s life-story and establishes some of the well known facts before embarking on an in-depth exploration of the Sunflowers still life motif. Most significantly pondered here is, not the frequently misconstrued idea that the famous Sunflowers are a single still life study, but the fact that they are a series of 11 paintings – a collection of colourful reproductions.
Coming from an academic standpoint the 1 hour 25 minutes isn’t unnecessarily turgid and its mix of re-enactments and voiceovers break-up the art class lecture feel. Included are lots of interesting insights into both the artist and the paintings including a history of sunflowers and their introduction into what was known as European competitive gardening during the 19th century. From his early meeting of the impressionists and his juxtaposition with realism, to his use of monochrome colours and the technical skill he developed to give a three dimensional quality, these meanderings added to the letters he wrote to his sister and brother, all give an incredible insight into his thoughts and steps during this period making this a touching biographical account of an iconic artist and his iconic work.
It’s a neat and tidy documentary executed with meticulous precision and detail allowing us to follow this incredible artistic journey. Once you’ve adjusted to the Van Gogh impersonator in the documentary and got accustomed to the strange Dutch pronunciation of Van Gogh, it is hard not to be somewhat captivated by this story which is fraught with both genius and despair including his close friendship with another famous artist of the time, Gaugin, and his mental deterioration and subsequent suicide. What makes an iconic painting and an iconic artist? Look no further than Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. A series of stunningly vibrant and colourful paintings and a fascinating life story. You’ll never look at a vase of flowers the same again.
Find your nearest cinema at exhibitiononscreen.com including Curzon, Everyman, Odeon, Picturehouse, Showcase, Vue and independent cinemas.
Director: David Bickerstaff
Stars: Jamie De Courcey, Jochum Ten Haaf, MArtin Bailey
Genre: Documentary / Arts
Run time: 1hr 25min