The present lot Sunflowers in a blue vase can in many ways be seen as exemplary of De Groninger Ploeg-expressionism. Style, technique and subject matter of this painting are clearly representative for this period in Dutch art history.
The subject matter of this painting obviously refers to the famous sunflower-series that Vincent van Gogh painted in 1887-1888. The importance of Van Gogh for the painters of De Ploeg is illustrated very well by this painting. Although the oeuvre of Jan Altink mainly consists of landscapes and portraits, there are few other sunflowers known from his hand. Nevertheless the reference to the 'original' of Van Gogh is stronger in this painting than the other still lifes by Jan Altink.
Another aspect that is clearly exemplary for a De Ploeg painting is the applied technique: the wax-painting. Fellow Ploeg artist Jan Wiegers returned to Groningen in 1921 after a stay in Davos. There he met German Brücke artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The befriending of these two men would turn out to be of great influence on the development of the Groninger art scene in the first quarter of the 20th Century. Not only did Wiegers introduce his fellow artists to the bright Brücke coloration, he also introduced the wax-paint technique. The present lot is a clear example of the use of this paint by Jan Altink. It gives the work a more transparent and smoothening surface as compared to oil paint.
Stylistically the present lot characterises the paintings of Jan Altink from around 1927. There is only one aspect that makes it differ slightly from the Altinks other works of this period. The use of colour is relatively subdued. Especially when we take notice of the fact that the picture was painted in the period that is seen as Altinks expressionistic years, 1924-1927. (C. Hofsteenge De Ploeg 1981-1941 De Hoogtijdagen, Groningen 1993, P.81). Maybe Jan Altink did not intend his 'tribute' to Van Gogh to outvie the original. Or could the Sunflowers be seen as a precursor of Altinks more subdued later style? In any case the painting is a very good example of the aspects that show a De Ploeg painting from the bloom of the period, combined with the individual aspects which make Altink one of the more subtle artist from this movement.