Jan Altink is widely regarded as the purest 'Groninger' of all Ploeg artists. W.J. de Gruyter also had a great admiration for Jan Altink: "Say Altink and you say 'Groningen', say 'Groningen' and you are bound to recall the 'Ploeg' (Plough), a group of artists founded in 1918. Jan Altink was responsible for the name, and he later must have said: "There were not many activities in Groningen, so I thought of cultivation and, thus, of ploughing."(...) Nobody felt so fundamentally related to this land and its people as Altink did. (...) Without any fuss, indeed, for Altink was always far from being a snob, a 'would-be' or an 'avant-gardist'. (exh.cat. W.J. de Gruijter, Jan Altink, Haarlem 1978, p.15)
From 1924 on there is a change in Altink's work. His colours became brighter and the forms more simple. Altink now developed his own expressionism; drawn along by Expressionism, which Wiegers had introduced, he remains realistic and naturalistic, depending on direct visual impressions.
The use of wax paint that Jan Wiegers introduced to Altink seemed excellent for his landscape paintings and the plough men, haymakers and diggers he depicted in raw brush strokes and intense colours.
Between 1924 until 1925 Altink made his best work. He was extremely productive during that period. He exhibited more than 80 paintings in these years, mostly landscapes and portraits. Still lifes, like the present lot are more rare.
Sunflowers reminds us of Vincent van Gogh's sunflowers. The subject, a vase with sunflowers, must have been a challenge for Altink. Competing with one of the most well known paintings by Van Gogh can be seen as an artistic statement. Although Altink's sunflowers differ from those from his predecessor in composition and colour, for his audience his admiration for the master must have been evident. Van Gogh, who had his first exhibition in The Netherlands in Groningen in 1896, was regarded as the father of expressionism: a movement Altink felt very close to.