Art lovers to see van Gogh's Sunflowers in virtual museum – but how many know he was an evangelist?

Wikimedia Commons'Three Sunflowers', one of van Gogh's famous floral masterpieces.

The famous Sunflowers paintings of Vincent van Gogh, currently spread across the world, are to be brought together through a pioneering new digital project. 

Currently held in London, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Munich and Tokyo, the works are too fragile to be physically united but an unprecedented digital initiative will see them brought together in a 'virtual exhibition', according to Art Daily. The display will take place across all five Sunflower locations on August 14, via Facebook Live.

In addition, a project called Sunflowers 360, launched yesterday, utilises VR (virtual reality) and CGI technology to immerse audiences across the world in the five paintings as if they were all in one room.

Van Gogh, largely unappreciated in his life, has gone on to become one of the most influential figures in western art. However, it's less widely known that van Gogh was also a Christian and, for a time, a passionate missionary.

Vincent's father was a Dutch Reformed minister and as he grew up in the Netherlands he developed a fervent faith and a passion for ministry. He wanted to study theology, but failing the seminary entrance exam, he instead became a missionary to coal miners in Belgium.

Wikimedia CommonsA self-portrait by Vincent.

To the impoverished community there Vincent embodied a life of radical self-sacrifice and servanthood, selling everything he had and tending to the needs of the afflicted.

Despite his commitment to Christ-like sacrifice, Vincent was fired for being overzealous, for his ineloquent speech and for his scruffy appearance. Returning home, he suffered a nervous breakdown, and his struggle with mental health and depression would continue throughout his life until his suicide. 

Nonetheless, he still believed he could serve God through artistic expression. Alongside works like Sunflowers, paintings like The Good Samaritan, The Raising of Lazarus, The Sower and The Sheaf Binder centred on the person of Christ.

The pioneering forthcoming film Loving Vincent, released September 22will tell Vincent's story in the world's first fully painted animated feature film – every one of its 65,000 frames is a handcrafted oil painting in van Gogh's style.