Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers will feature in the National Gallery of Australia's 2020 summer blockbuster

One of the world's most famous paintings - Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers - is coming to Canberra next year as part of an art history blockbuster at the National Gallery of Australia.

Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers, 1888, will be on display at the National Gallery of Australia in 2020. Picture: Supplied

Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers, 1888, will be on display at the National Gallery of Australia in 2020. Picture: Supplied

The vivid yellow painting of sunflowers in a vase, one of a series painted by Van Gogh in 1888, will be one of more than 60 works by European masters on display from November 2020 in Botticelli to Van Gogh.

The works are from the collection of the National Gallery in London, and include some of Europe's most revered artists, including Rembrandt, Vemeer, Cezanne, Renoir and Goya.

NGA director Nick Mitzevich said many of the works in the show had changed the course of art history, and most had never left Europe before.

"There's the fabulous self-portrait by Rembrandt, the one with the hat, from 1640, which is one of the most confident self-portraits ever undertaken in art history," he said.

"There's also Vemeer's Young Girl Seated, from 1670, and an extraordinary Botticelli."

He said that apart from being a rare chance to see the works up close, the exhibition would be a crash course in art history.

"If you don't know anything about art, I can guarantee when you come to this exhibition you'll go to zero to art hero within an hour and a half," he said.

He said the fact that institutions like the National Gallery of London were willing to lend such precious works to its Australian counterpart was an indication of the NGA's status in the international art world.

"I think it defines our position internationally," he said.

"We're a regular lender to international exhibitions. At the moment, the Francis Bacon in the National Gallery's collection is one of the stars of the Pompidou Bacon retrospective in Paris.

Johannes Vermeer's Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, c. 1675, will feature in a major exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 2020. Picture: Supplied

Johannes Vermeer's Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, c. 1675, will feature in a major exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 2020. Picture: Supplied

"After our Monet exhibition, the Haystacks is currently on show in Denver, Colorado for a major Monet retrospective.

"When you don't see the works on the walls, they're generally not languishing in storage, they're racking up art flying miles around the world."

In said another standout in the gallery's 2020 program would be a major survey of work by Xu Zhen, "one of the most progressive Chinese artists on the planet today", and the multi-part Know My Name project, featuring female Australian artists around the country.

"It's a really important project for us to elevate the role and position of women artists," he said.

"Over the years, for political, social, educational and commercial reasons, the playing field in art has not been even, and when the playing field is uneven, it's important to have special showings and put a spotlight on particular aspects of art.

"We've chosen to do this in the public arena, to say that over the years, our collection has not represented women adequately and we want to improve that."