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Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on twentieth-century art. Though van Gogh began to draw as a child, he did not begin to paint until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works (including The Starry Night) during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His oeuvre comprises portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, and still lives. In 1886, van Gogh moved to Paris and underwent a significant transformation when confronted with the works of Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists. Famously, van Gogh lived out the remainder of his life in the south of France, where he eventually succumbed to mental illness and committed suicide. His paintings of his final years are perhaps his most seminal and renown, and their influence on modern art cannot be overstated.
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In 1888, for the second time in his artistic career, Vincent van Gogh painted a series of still-life sunflowers, including Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers. Created in the so-called Yellow House in Arles, van Gogh intended to use them as decorations for his domicile in expectation of the extended visit of fellow painter Paul Gauguin. Calling his series “a symphony in blue and yellow” in a letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh uses a technique known as impasto to build up thick texture on the canvas, particularly on the flowers that appear to be dying or dead. Van Gogh’s fixation with sunflowers continued into the coming years of his life; it is rumored that he produced multiple copies of this particular painting in 1889, but it is widely disputed among scholars. In any case, Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers has been a cornerstone of the National Gallery in London’s modern art collection for many years, attracting van Gogh admirers from all around the world.