Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers too fragile to leave Amsterdam

Axel Ruger, Ella Hendriks and Rene Boitelle with Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers (1889) at the Van Gogh Museum's conservation studio
Axel Ruger, Ella Hendriks and Rene Boitelle with Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers (1889) at the Van Gogh Museum's conservation studio. (Photo: Van Gogh Museum)

Years of research at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam into Vincent van Gogh's famous Sunflowers revealed that the painting is in a stable, but fragile state. "That is why we have decided that Sunflowers will no longer travel away from the museum. From now on, this highlight of our collection will stay at home in Amsterdam, available for all our visitors to see every day of the year", museum director Axel Ruger said on the museum's website.

Since 2016 a team of experts, led by former senior conservator and current professor of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the University of Amsterdam Ella Hendriks, has been studying the condition of Sunflowers. They used the latest techniques to gather as much information as possible about the materials used in the painting, what restoration is required and possible, and what needs to be done to preserve the paintings as well as possible.

"One notable conclusion of the research is that the layers of ground and paint are stable, but very sensitive to vibrations and changes in humidity and temperature. It is therefore important that the painting is moved about as little as possible, and that it is displayed in a stable climate", Ruger said. "In order to avoid any risk whatsoever, we have decided that Sunflowers will no longer travel."

Sunflowers has only been loaned out six times in the Van Gogh Museum's 46 year history. The last time was in 2014, when the painting was loaned to the National Gallery in London. 

The painting, which dates from 1889, is currently in the Van Gogh Museum's conservation studio, undergoing minor conservation treatment. It will go back on display on February 22nd. Between June 21st and September 1st, Sunflowers will take center stage in the museum's exhibition Van Gogh and the Sunflowers, which will explain the recent research and conservation treatment on the painting.

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