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I Follow the Sun

Sunflowers in Art 1889-2024
June 29, 2024 – January 5, 2025

Few plants are as prolific in art history as the sunflower.Over the years, its diverse symbolism has also given this blossom a strong presence far beyond the domain of flower painting.The sunflower has taken on many guises and meanings since the 17th century. On 29 June, Artipelag opens its exhibition I Follow the Sun – Sunflowers in Art: 1889–2024, which features around one hundred examples from the sunflower’s rich art history.

Emil Nolde, Sonnenblumen – Abend I, 1944, oil on canvas, 73,5 x 88 cm. ©Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.


Adults (18 years+): SEK 195
Seniors (65 years+): SEK 165
Students: SEK 95
Children (0–17 years): free admission
Art.Pass Members: free admission

Buy a subsidized combo ticket for the art experience Imagine Van Gogh.
SEK 195 – 440

Starting on Monday, July 1.

11:30 am Swedish
2 pm English
4 pm Swedish

2 pm English
4 pm Swedish

Subject to change.

On days when we have many visitors, extra introductions may be added.
Please see the current times in the art gallery, or ask our guides.

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About the Exhibition

For many of us, the sunflower is mainly associated with Vincent van Gogh’s iconic still lifes from 1888–1889. But Van Gogh is only one of many artists who have explored the motif since the plant was introduced in Europe in 1569. The exhibition I Follow the Sun attempts to examine the different portrayals of the sunflower in paintings, sculptures and photographs, from 1889 to today. Well-known Nordic artists, including Carl Larsson, Lena Cronqvist, Elina Brotherus and Michael Ancher are shown alongside international icons such as Emil Nolde, Ai Weiwei and Anselm Kiefer, all of whom have approached the sunflower from a wide variety of artistic and conceptual angles.

I Follow the Sun highlights the many symbolic meanings of sunflowers over the years, and the artists for whom the motif has been especially significant. In that light, the sunflower appears to be not just a floral motif, but situated in the intersection of multiple perspectives on art, nature and human existence.

“The idea of having an exhibition about sunflowers in art has been under discussion at Artipelag for years. We’ve had several previous exhibitions focusing on iconographic elements, such as The Monochrome Symphony and Blackboard, and we are delighted to explore the rich art history of sunflowers at last,” says Bo Nilsson, director of Artipelag.

Målning föreställande flicka ståendes i en dörröppning. I famnen håller hon ett stort fång med solrosor.
Michael Ancher, Pigen med solsikkerne, 1889. Oil on canvas, 101 x 95 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst

The sunflower was a popular symbol and a firmly established motif in 17th-century art. Interest waned in the ensuing century, however, and it was not until the late 1880s that a larger number of artists again discovered the sunflower as a subject. Therefore, 1889 was chosen as the chronological starting point for I Follow the Sun, with the Skagen painter Michael Ancher’s Girl with Sunflowers (1889) and the Dutch pointillist Jan Toorop’s Reflections of the Sunset or Seduction (c. 1888–1889). The exhibition includes several modernist pieces by, among others, Emil Nolde, Edward Steichen, Fernand Léger, Bror Hjorth and Hilding Linnqvist.

I Follow the Sun is not restricted to historic portrayals of sunflowers, however, but also shows how contemporary artists embrace the subject. Among the artists participating in the exhibition are Klara Kristalova, Anna Bjerger, Tal R, Erik Steffensen and Aura Rosenberg. Moreover, Clara Gesang-Gottowt and Edit Sihlberg were invited to create new works specifically for I Follow the Sun.

Målning föreställandes ett stilleben med solrosor och en tom glasvas.
Edit Sihlberg, Vem där? 2024. Oil on canvas, 120 x 160 cm. Photo: Mattias Lindbäck

The exhibition features several conceptual approaches to the sunflower, such as Ai Weiwei’s millions of handmade ceramic sunflower seeds, and Vik Muniz’s visual comments on the mass-reproductions of Van Gogh’s works. Anselm Kiefer offers themes and ideas of an entirely different nature, with dead sunflowers drooping under the weight of history. Several photographers are also included in the exhibition. Apart from the previously mentioned Edward Steichen, who began exploring this motif in the 1920s, there are photographic works by Elina Brotherus, Rinko Kawauchi, Thomas Struth and Gerry Johansson.

I Follow the Sun is on at Artipelag from 29 June 2024 until 5 January 2025. An extensive catalogue will be published in conjunction with the exhibition, with a new poem by the poet Jonas Gren.

Contributing Artists

Emil Nolde, Carl Larsson, Ai Weiwei, Michael Ancher, Elina Brotherus, Anselm Kiefer, Lena Cronqvist, Jan Toorop, Klara Kristalova, Fernand Léger, Tal R, Aura Rosenberg, Olle Bærtling, Clara Gesang-Gottowt, Thorvald Niss, Bror Hjorth, Hilding Linnqvist, Edward Steichen, Piero Gilardi, Thomas Struth, Gerry Johansson, Steve Wood, Erik Steffensen, Cheryl Donegan, Vik Muniz, Roger Andersson, Rinko Kawauchi, Anna Bjerger, Edit Sihlberg.