Le Japon, en veux-tu, en voilà (2) | Vu du Nord

Almond blossoms. 1890

Just a few more days to see « Van Gogh and Japan » (But you can always buy the catalogue, which I found very interesting – and beautiful, of course). Personally, I knew a few of Van Gogh’s paintings that were clearly inspired by Japanese paintings or prints. But I never realised he was that much in awe of Japanese art – like everyone else in his days, his fellow artists (Whistler, Monet, Degas, Rodin) not in the last place. And little did they know that during the 19th century Japan had opened up to the world , and Japanese artists had already been inspired by European painters (and painting material)…

Anyhow, in the late 19th century, Europe was fascinated by Japan, and Paris

Prints, Japanese and others, like they were on Van Gogh’s studio wall.

was the centre of the Japanese art market. Van Gogh read about this art in French magazines and books, and seems to have really discovered and fallen in love with Japanese art during his stay in Antwerp, from where he moved to Paris in 1886. He started collecting Japanese prints, and aspired to making « flat paintings », characterised by the (absence of) perspective that was considered typical Japanese. ‘Japanese’ are also his vivid colours, strong contour lines, hatchings, and also themes like flowers or rain.

Van Gogh, La berçeuse (Augustine Roulin), 1889, Art Institute of Chicago

Most of all, he was in search of what he called « Japanese light », which he eventually found in Provence. « I keep telling myself, here I am in Japan », he wrote to his brother. « And as a consequence, I have only to open my eyes and paint what I see right in front of me. » We are grateful he did. Aren’t we? Van Gogh Museum​, till 24 June 2018.

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Le Japon, en veux-tu, en voilà (2) | Vu du Nord