• 22 Jun 2018

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum put the famous painter’s fascination for Japan in the spotlight. A few days away from the end of the exhibition “Van Gogh: Inspiration from Japan”, Art-Trope talks about the influence of the country on the Artist.

Artwork by Vincent Van Gogh

Blossoming almond tree, 1890 © Vincent Van Gogh

A painting of Japan both influenced and innovative

In 1886, Vincent Van Gogh discovered the Japanese prints. Indeed, at Art dealer Siegfried Bing’s, he admired Japanese porcelains, Art objects and Artworks. The painter’s fascination is so intense that he put together an impressive collection of 600 prints. A hundred of them are uniquely presented as part of the Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum exhibition. Even though the painter worked from prints, he reused the original lines while bringing an innovating work on colors to it. The Artist would never have the occasion to physically go to Japan. However, through painting, he invites you to dive in t through unique and subtle interpretations. It is also the result of aesthetic works he has been initiated years before, including on the notion of frame.

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

The Courtesan, 1887 © Vincent Van Gogh

From Provence to Japan: Vincent Van Gogh’s invitation

Vincent Van Gogh sent a letter to his brother Théo in 1888 in which he said “you know, I feel like I am in Japan” even though he was in Arles at the time. To her sister he wrote: “I just have to open my eyes and paint straight ahead which has an impact on me.” His prints collection gave him the artistic material he needed to offer a unique vision of Japan. Like the Douanier Rousseau and his fantasized jungles, Vincent Van Gogh creates a Japan both subtle and explosive through the colors he uses. Beyond the inspiration he gets from his prints, Vincent Van Gogh also closely studied Hokusaï and Utamaro‘s catalogs of insects. In his letters to his brother he stated “one cannot study Japanese Art without becoming more joyful and happy. It takes us back to nature despite our education and work in a conventional world.”

Fuji Mountain

Fuji Mountain, Japan

A one-of-a-kind character in the 18th century Netherlands

When Vincent Van Gogh embraced Japanism, a few Artists in the Netherlands were interested in it. It is typically a Parisian trend, fascinated by Oriental Art. However, Vincent Van Gogh settled in Paris exactly at the same time. As a result, the relationship he had with Japan is very unique. Indeed, he stated “Japanese Art is something like the primitives, like the Greeks”. He was inspired by the original space effects used by Japanese Artists to integrate it in his Artworks. Inspired by painter Emile Bernard, Vincent Van Gogh developed new Avant-Garde ideas about the direction of Modern Art. The illusion of depth is an essential element to the famous painter’s artistic statement. The south of France liberated the Artist in his search. Like Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh believed Artists should live in primitive and wild areas to feel the vibration of colors.

Read our article about the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes here.

Source: Beaux-Arts Magazine