Giant sunflower painting scrapes the sky

painting and water tower

“The World’s Largest Painting on an Easel”, a giant sunflower painting, towers over buildings behind it and over Goodland’s water tower.

Giant painting towers over Goodland

Goodland’s 80-foot tall painting on an easel, “Three Sunflowers in a Vase”, is part of the van Gogh Project, a series of Big Easel paintings based on Vincent van Gogh‘s seven sunflower paintings. Van Gogh originally painted them in Arles, France, between 1888-1889. Project’s original intent was to reproduce all those paintings in seven different countries spanning the globe. However, Goodland’s giant sunflower painting in Pioneer Park East has been the last one erected so far.

Each sculpture consists of a colossal hand-painted reproduction of one of the sunflower paintings. Each measures an impressive 24×32 feet (7×10 meters), resting on a 80-foot (25m) tall, 37,000 lbs. (17,000 kilograms) steel easel. Easel and painting together weigh approximately 45,000 lbs. (20,000 kgs).

Overall project began in spring 1997. Artist Cameron Cross selected sites that have a connection to sunflower agriculture or to van Gogh himself. Goodland was chosen because of its status as a center of sunflower production and marketing. Each painting takes approximately a month and a half of 10- to 12-hour work days to complete.

The first easel was erected in Altona, Manitoba, Canada, Oct. 17, 1998. The second was erected Nov. 8, 1999, in Emerald, Queensland, Australia. Goodland’s is the third. In the spring of 2001, Cross painted “Three Sunflowers in a Vase” in an unoccupied building in Downtown Goodland. The building was too small for the entire painting. Cross had to paint it in sections, then assemble it later. Goodland’s painting was erected June 19, 2001. Total cost was $150,000, partly funded by an attraction grant from Kansas Department of Commerce. The easel’s supports were sunk 35 feet into the ground.

By 2012, the painting was showing signs of wear. It even had been struck by lightning.

Tourist and artist Cameron Cross

A tourist and artist Cameron Cross talk about the painting shortly after Cross had inspected it for damage. Cross is wearing the safety harness he used when on a cherry picker inspecting the painting.

Cross inspected the painting in early July 2012. Painting was cut down from its easel July 11, 2012, and laid on the ground near the empty easel.

The painting lies on the ground as Cross paints it.

The painting lies on the ground as Cross paints it.

Cross had a small shelter from the fierce sun of the hottest month ever recorded. Because of the summer’s intense heat, he was only able to paint in morning and evening hours. In 2001, Cross had used van Gogh’s muted palette. In 2012, he used a brighter palette, which shows up much better, especially from a distance.

City crew places the painting back on its easel.

City crew places the painting back on its easel.

While approximately 50 spectators watched, City of Goodland’s crew hoisted the painting to the easel and welded it in place on the morning of July 23, 2012.

van Gogh at night

“Three Sunflowers in a Vase” shines in the floodlight Goodland Rotary Club has placed. Venus and the moon look down from above.

In 2004 Goodland Rotary Club erected a floodlight in front of the painting as part of their Rotary Centennial Project. The light makes the painting stand out and is visible from I-70. The Rotary volunteers also have erected brick sidewalks and viewing benches plus a visitors logbook, all south of the painting. The bricks in the sidewalks were reclaimed from Goodland’s Main Street.

Goodland’s painting was chosen as No. 5 in 2008’s Eight Wonders of Sherman County contest. Painting has been recommended by Midwest Living, Kansas! Magazine, “Driving Across Kansas: The Guide to I-70” and, among others. features a panorama of the painting.

map of van Gogh painting parking

The “P in a square” icons mark where to park at the Giant van Gogh Painting. Business Highway 24 is the road at the map’s bottom and Cherry St. is the road at the left.

To view the painting, please park in one of the lots provided. One is a bit east of the Businesss Highway 24-Cherry Street intersection and the other is a bit north. The eastern one opens from Business 24 between Truck & Tractor Repair and Healthful Solutions. The northern one opens from 19th Street south of Dollar General and Bill’s Shootin’ Shop. The painting is always open for viewing.

Inspired by the van Gogh replica, local artists have painted smaller paintings on easels in Goodland city parks. The easiest way to view all the paintings on their easels is to start at the van Gogh Project painting in Pioneer Park East. Go north to Chambers Park for Picnic in the Park, Gulick Park for The Big Rooster and finally Rosewood Park for Arapahoe Sun.


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