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A vase of sunflowers in Germany and another in the US. It sits on a table in Amsterdam, and across the distance in Japan. There’s yet another in the UK.
His Sunflowers bloom in world-class art galleries around the world. But for the first time, celebrated Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings are finally being reunited in a virtual exhibition that you can watch on Facebook Live.
Using photography of the original artworks, The National Gallery (London), Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Neue Pinakothek (Munich) and the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art (Tokyo) worked with Facebook to create a fully immersive digital exhibition.
They used a combination of virtual reality (VR) technology and computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create an experience that looks and feels as if the five paintings are actually together in one room, allowing fans to interact with Sunflowers 360 on Samsung Gear VR or view it as a 360 video on Facebook.
Willem van Gogh, the great-grandson of Van Gogh’s brother Theo, and advisor to the Van Gogh Museum board, narrates the experience, sharing personal memories of the paintings.
He said: “Rather like the Mona Lisa and The Night Watch, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are works of art that continue to intrigue and inspire, perhaps until eternity. Indeed, each generation forges a fresh, highly personal bond with them. And the virtual gallery and live stream now provide a novel way for art lovers young and old to admire these magnificent masterpieces, from all corners of the globe. I think this is fantastic!”
Sunflowers 360 has been released on the Facebook pages of each museum, and is available on Gear VR on Monday, August 14.
On Monday, you can learn from the museum’s experts, when each sunflower painting will be discussed via Facebook Live. Each of the five galleries is expected to link up in a unique collaboration to explore the Sunflowers series through a consecutive relay of five, 15-minute Facebook Live broadcasts.
Each broadcast will take place in front of a different Sunflowerspainting, celebrating and exploring Van Gogh’s life and work.
Christopher Riopelle, curator of Post 1800 Paintings, who will host the first live from London, said: “The excitement we saw three years ago when the London and Amsterdam ‘Sunflowers’ were shown together, especially among young visitors to the National Gallery, convinced us that there is a deep curiosity on the part of the public and scholars alike to understand how this famous series came into being, what the pictures meant to Vincent, and what they mean to us today.”
A date with history
The Sunflowers series dates from 1888, when Van Gogh left Paris to paint in the brilliant sunshine of the south of France.
He rented a house in Arles – ‘The Yellow House’ – and invited French artist Paul Gauguin to come and join him so the two artists could paint together. Waiting for Gauguin to arrive, Van Gogh painted a series of pictures of sunflowers to decorate his friend’s bedroom. They were meant as a sign of friendship and welcome, but also of Van Gogh’s allegiance to Gauguin as his artistic leader.
Vincent wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888: “I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when you know that what I’m at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers…it gives a singular effect.”