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What is the Meaning of a Sunflower?

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Woman in red dress and hat among sunflowers and bubbles
Photo by Andre Furtado on Unsplash

Are you as obsessed with sunflowers as I am? From the Instagrammable sunflower fields to lovingly gifted bouquets, they are just something to behold. Even my daughter’s class received one when they graduated high school. Plenty of flowers have meanings, symbols and stories attached to them. I’ve done my own paintings of sunflowers – including one for an upcoming painting class.


What about the mythological origins of the sunflower?

We have always been fascinated by sunflowers throughout history and they have found a place in many cultural legends. In all the versions of the Greek mythology origin story of the sunflower they all talk about Clytie, the water nymph who fell in love with Apollo, god of the sun.


Her eyes would follow him as he rode his golden chariot across the skies. But he never noticed her. It drove Clytie absolutely mad, not eating or engaging in anything. She just drank dew as her gaze was trained on Apollo moving across the sky from the horizons, east to west. Eventually, Clytie turned into a sunflower, always facing wherever the sun shone.


What do sunflowers symbolise?

Think to yourself, how does a sunflower make you feel? They’re joyful, warm and exciting. They just suit the name! Sunflowers always face towards the sun and close away when the evening sets in. They symbolise faithfulness, adoration and loyalty – just like how they treat the sun.


What is the meaning of the colour yellow?

The colour yellow invokes happiness, sunshine and warmth. It is optimistic yet cautions us to danger when used in signage.


Vincent Van Gogh loved the colour yellow. If you’ve ever seen his paintings you would know he featured the sunflower in quite a few of them. In a letter to his brother, he wrote that "the sunflower is mine" and made it his signature. According to Emile Bernard, “Yellow was his favourite colour, the symbol of light, which he wanted to see not only in paintings but also in our hearts.”


What does the sunflower mean to those in Ukraine?

Earlier this year, social media was flooded by artists painting sunflowers in support of the Ukrainians facing the war waged against them. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine and has become a symbol of resistance. I contributed my own piece using watercolour and ink.


Want to paint a sunflower yourself?

We have a painting class coming up where you can paint your very own sunflower! The Sunflower Burst painting was a request from a person booking a private painting event and has now been added to our collection for painting parties.


I chose a composition that comes in close so the sunflower fills the canvas. Its layering of colours makes it bright against the dark background.


Want to bring a little more brightness into your life?

Book your spot in our painting class here.


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