Marr looks at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers...!

Great Paintings of the World with Andrew Marr: (Channel 5, 8.15pm)
Marr delivers a very honest appraisal of the famous Sunflowers painting by Vincent Van GoghMarr delivers a very honest appraisal of the famous Sunflowers painting by Vincent Van Gogh
Marr delivers a very honest appraisal of the famous Sunflowers painting by Vincent Van Gogh

Andrew Marr is not known for pulling his punches. Quite the opposite in fact.

Throughout his broadcasting career, he’s come face-to-face with politicians of all denominations and he’s never been known to kowtow to them. Instead, he asks the questions he believes the public needs answers for, and isn’t afraid to upset anybody.

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It’s a no-nonsense approach that has won him fans across a broad spectrum, from Goggleboxers (they regularly comment admiringly) to MPs themselves and the people in the street.

Now Marr is using the same tough-talking tactics in this series, albeit in a different way – there aren’t so many folk locking horns with him here. Instead, he delivers a very honest appraisal of the paintings and their creators in each episode, eschewing the flowery and often pretentious language we’ve come to expect – and often dread – in other art documentaries.

Marr may seem like an odd choice for such a series, but when he isn’t grilling politicians, he can often be found painting or drawing; he is a respected artist in his own right and has written books on the subject.

Last week he started at the very top of the artistic tree by assessing arguably the most famous painting in the world – Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

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This time he’s turning his attention to Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. He actually painted several versions, but the one that Marr is interested in hangs proudly at London’s National Gallery, attracting thousands of visitors every year – or at least they do when there isn’t a pandemic going on, forcing it to close its doors to the public.

Still dazzlingly beautiful more than 100 years since it was created, the painting remains a testament to Van Gogh’s talent, which remained unrecognised during his lifetime. He was 35 when he completed Sunflowers, just two years before his death. If he could see how loved his work is today, he probably wouldn’t believe it.

The artist himself was somewhat taken with his Sunflowers series. He wrote to his brother Theo: “It’s a type of painting that changes its aspect a little, which grows in richness the more you look at it. Besides, you know that Gauguin likes them extraordinarily.

“You know that Jeannin has the peony, Quost has the hollyhock, but I have the sunflower, in a way.”

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Marr isn’t just interested in what is depicted on the canvas, he wants to delve into Van Gogh’s psyche, which was notoriously damaged at the time, to reveal how his mental health impacted on his work.

He reveals how loneliness and heartbreak informed Van Gogh’s creative process, and how darkness threatened to consume him, despite the bright colours he often used.

Finally, Marr examines the part played by this painting in particular in the final tragic act of the artist’s life.

It’s a touching and revealing insight into a man now rightly feted as an artistic genius from someone who truly appreciates his work.

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