To this end Van Gogh rented The Yellow House in Arles, where he encouraged Gauguin to join him. In late October 1888 Gaugin did so.

The two painted together, set out a missive together expressing their hopes for their colony, visited brothels together then ultimately argued violently, leading to the infamous incident where Van Gogh took a razor blade to his ear.

It goes without saying that Van Gogh and Gauguin had a tempestuous relationship, in part due to the manic behaviour of Van Gogh. However their time together was also a time of expression and of appreciating their different approaches to painting.

The Artistic Process of Gauguin

The Painter of Sunflowers showcases these differences very neatly. In the first place Gauguin did not paint the picture with Van Gogh posing for him, the 'natural' process that Van Gogh preferred.

Instead Gauguin painted from memory (or from his 'imagination.') He added details that could not have been there as part of this process (the portrait was painted in December when there was no chance of finding a sunflower to paint.)

Depicting Van Gogh

Painted before the violent argument, this work adeptly captures the essence of its subject. Initially Van Gogh stated that Gauguin was presenting him as a 'madman,' although he afterwards softened to say that it portrayed him as 'extremely tired and charged with electricity.'

The picture itself is full of vibrancy and colour, but Van Gogh is a juxtaposition to this. He looks wholly absorbed by what he is doing, but worn out and a little shabby around the edges. Compared to his setting and his subject matter Van Gogh himself is pallid and in shadows.

This is key to the portrait. Instead of simply painting exactly what he sees before him from nature, Gaugin's imaginative process allows him to capture more of the essence of his subject.