Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings are coming to London

Van Gogh sunflower

One of Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings from Arles in France is set to travel outside the United States for the first time since it was acquired in 1935, offering a unique opportunity to realise one of Van Gogh’s ideas for a decorative arrangement.

The picture, now housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be lent to the National Gallery’s exhibition “Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers” from 14 September 2024 to 19 January 2025. This exhibit will feature the Philadelphia Sunflowers alongside the National Gallery’s own Sunflowers painting for the first time since early 1889, when both paintings resided in the artist’s studio in Arles.

Tickets for the exhibition can be booked by Gallery members starting from Thursday, 6 June, with general tickets available to the public from 27 June ( The Philadelphia Sunflowers was initially left with Van Gogh’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ginoux, in Arles. In 1935, it was purchased by Mr. Carroll Tyson of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, before being acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1963. On the other hand, the London Sunflowers painting was sent to Van Gogh’s brother Theo in May 1889 and remained with the family until the National Gallery acquired it in 1924. The two paintings were never exhibited together until now, having last shared space in Van Gogh’s studio in early 1889.

Painted in August 1888, the National Gallery’s Sunflowers contrasts with the Philadelphia version, which was created in January 1889 in Arles. This juxtaposition underscores Van Gogh’s enduring fascination with these still lifes. The exhibition will also feature “La Berceuse” (1889), a symbolic portrait of a woman with a cradle cord, on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Months after completing these masterpieces, while in Saint-Rémy near Arles, Van Gogh shared potential display arrangements for them with his brother Theo, even sending a sketch in a letter dated late May 1889. Additionally, while in Arles, Van Gogh didn’t just focus on sunflowers; he also painted portraits of Augustine Roulin, reimagining her in bold colors against a stylized floral backdrop. The title “La Berceuse,” inscribed on the painting, translates to “lullaby” or “she who rocks the cradle,” embodying Van Gogh’s deep emotional connections to his subjects.

As part of its 200th anniversary celebrations, the National Gallery’s “Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers” exhibition will not only mark a century since acquiring two of its most famous paintings, “Sunflowers” and “Van Gogh’s Chair” (1888), but also focus on Van Gogh’s imaginative transformations. This groundbreaking exhibition will display over 50 works borrowed from museums and private collections worldwide, including significant pieces from the Kröller Müller Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Musée d’Orsay.

“Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers” delves into the artist’s time in Arles and Saint-Rémy between 1888 and 1890, examining how Van Gogh idealised the places he encountered, turning them into poetic frameworks for his art. The exhibition sheds light on the essential role of portraits in Van Gogh’s work, assigning symbolic meaning to his models as illustrated by the exhibition’s title. The event will also highlight Van Gogh’s thematic transitions from his euphoric exploration of the asylum garden to the darker, more introspective works created during his stay in Saint-Rémy.

In 1888, Van Gogh had envisioned decorating his Yellow House with works centered around themes like the Poet’s Garden, Sunflowers, and the Poet and the Lover. These pieces were central to his decorative scheme, which extended beyond the walls of the Yellow House. “Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers” will showcase how these themes evolved into ambitious compositions intended for exhibition in Paris and how Van Gogh’s ideas about painting in series and creating cohesive groups were ahead of their time.

Curated by Cornelia Homburg and Christopher Riopelle, the exhibition brings together masterpieces that highlight Van Gogh’s creative processes and sources of inspiration. The exhibit will include significant works from the National Gallery’s collection, such as “Wheatfield with Cypresses” (1889) and “Long Grass with Butterflies” (1890). Dr. Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London, notes, “This is the first exhibition dedicated to Van Gogh ever held at the National Gallery. It marks two centuries of the Gallery’s existence and one century since its acquisition of Sunflowers. Museums and collectors have been astoundingly generous in lending great paintings to this show.”

Tickets can be booked by Gallery members from 6 June with general tickets going on sale to everyone on 27 June at

Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers is part of NG200: 200 years of the National Gallery. From 10 May 2024, the 200th anniversary of the Gallery’s foundation, a year-long festival of art, creativity and imagination will take place across the UK, and around the world, and at our home in London. This will lead us into our third century of bringing people and paintings together. For more information go to: