Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian symbolist and the leader of the art nouveau group Vienna Secession. Artistically gifted from a young age, he made a living as a painter of architectural decorations before developing his own very unique style. Many of his work was centred around the female form - even being considered somewhat pornographic in his time - and extensive use of metallic gold in his palette of colour. The son of a gold engraver, Klimt incorporated the use of gold leaf into his later works.
Painted in 1907 - a time at which the artist was working alongside his mentor and close friend Van Gogh - Sunflower falls along Klimt's 'Golden Phase'. Though lesser-known, his landscapes possessed the same ethereal and sparkly nuances that characterized much of his work. Clearly hinting at a human shape, the sunflower is placed prominently in the centre of this painting in a triangular composition, similar to some of his other works, most notably The Kiss. This has led to the belief that, on a metaphorical level, this could have been meant as a portrait of Klimt's life companion, Emilie Flöge. The self-contained portrayal of a beautiful, yet lonely flower could correspond to the lifelong relationship between herself and Klimt that was never clearly defined.