When asked to choose a piece of art that meant something to me, I was at first incredibly bewildered. Having studied the history of art for the past year I have had my eyes opened to some of the greats; Caravaggio, Pollock, Delaroche. But if I had to chose a single work that opened my eyes and changed the way I viewed the world, I would have to choose Vincent Van Gogh’s, Sunflowers.
Before embarking on a History of Art degree I actually began by studying a degree in Architecture. Very early on I was aware that this was not the course for me, but I carried on, wanting to complete the year. Whilst on a study trip to Amsterdam, we visited the Van Gogh Museum, a prospect I was positively thrilled about, having always found Van Gogh an interesting character from art history. I was left to explore the museum alone and worked my way up through the galleries to the top floor where I eventually came across the room that housed the masterpiece Sunflowers. Standing in front of the painting, I was overcome by the simplicity and humble nature of this small and beautiful work. I was almost moved to tears, overwhelmed by the fact that I was finally standing in front of a painting I had grown up being taught and having read so much about.
What I love most about the piece is the way that the flowerheads span the entire spectrum of life and death. In this sense it creates a relatively unsettling atmosphere, as I was unsure how I was supposed to read it. Should I look at it positively and only view the flowers still alive? Should I be pessimistic and fixate on the decaying flowerheads? It seems, I should think neither, or at least both. The piece is real. It says something beautiful and honest about the world we live in. Some of us have just been born, and others have been alive longer, but we are all on the same spectrum between life and death. It has an incredible sense of truth about it.
I felt relatively exposed at this moment as if I wanted to, but couldn’t look away. Something was keeping my feet firmly stuck to the spot in front of the masterpiece. Viewing this painting, I must admit, was probably the event that underlined to me the importance of changing my degree to History of Art. It was the defining moment which confirmed to me that this is what I wanted to be studying.
By Molly Evans