Tired in the metropolitan city and eager for peace, he sought a simpler life that, he hoped, would improve himself and his art. Da is also interested in forming a community of artists, and is very interested in various possibilities.

Japanese paintings that inspired Van Gogh

Strangely, in his excitement, he saw his new environment through the prism of a distant land: Japan.

In a letter written later that year to the painter Paul Gauguin, who would later join him in Arles, Van Gogh remembered looking out the window during the train trip from Paris to Provence "to see" if it was like Japan yet! 'Childish, right? "

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Upon his arrival, he discovered that heavy snow had changed the countryside, but the bright white rice fields still reminded him of the "winter landscape" by "Japanese" artists.

Months passed, but Van Gogh continued to associate Provence with Japan. "I always tell myself that I am here in Japan," he wrote to his sister, in September 1888.

"That was the result I just had to open my eyes and paint right in front of me what made an impression on me."

Two weeks later, he reported to his brother: "The weather is still good here, and if it is always like that it will be better than the painter's paradise, it will be completely Japanese."

According to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, "It was the sunlight that Van Gogh was looking for in Provence, brilliance and light that would clear details and simplify the shape, reducing the world around him to a kind of pattern admired by Japanese wooden beams.

Japanese paintings that inspired Van Gogh

Arles, he said, was 'Southern Japan'. Here, he felt, the horizontal effect of the sun would strengthen the lines of composition and reduce the nuances of color to some clear contrast. "

Looking East
Reading Van Gogh's letters, it became clear that Japan had magical mystical meanings for him. In his imagination, the Land of the Rising Sun is a fountain of grace and prosperity, a blessed utopia.

Van Gogh and Japan - a large exhibition filled with important international loans at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam - shows why a Far East country that the artist has never visited, and which he did not plan to travel there, could have a great effect on his imagination - and in turn, affects his art.

Many exhibitions in the past have shown the impact of Japanese art on Van Gogh's paintings, calling it one of several influences, in addition to the paintings of peasants by Jean-François Millet, or Neo-Impressionism.

Japanese paintings that inspired Van Gogh

However, this is the first to shine light solely on the subject. And, as I learned on my last visit to Amsterdam, it was full of exciting new discoveries.

Of course, Van Gogh was not the only person who was obsessed with Japan during the 19th century. When, in the 1850s, after more than two centuries of isolation, Japan opened international trade, large quantities of Japanese goods began to be imported into France, and bona fide madness for all things that were born by Japan.

A style for interior decoration by the way the Japanese gripped the bourgeoisie, and shops began offering porcelain, varnish, parasols, screens, fans, lanterns, trinkets, and art objects from Japan.

Artists, meanwhile, were infatuated with wooden block prints from Japan - in 1880, French novelist Emile Zola observed that every competent artist would study Japanese prints, "which everyone must have today".

Indeed, several artists, including Claude Monet and James McNeill Whistler, have collected what have been called 'ukiyo-e' prints (images from a floating world) for years.

Since 1872, the French term 'Japonism' has been coined, to describe the influence of Japanese art and design on Western culture, especially visual arts.

Obsessive Japonism
In a sense, then, Van Gogh was late for the 'Japonism' party: he first became in harmony with the beauty of Japanese art while living in Antwerp in 1885, when he pinned a set of black-and-white prints onto the walls of his studio, a year or more before he moved with his brother, Theo, in Paris, which later became the center of modernity.

However, stimulated by discussions about Japanese art in journals, magazines and novels, his madness quickly grew.

Japan, in Van Gogh's mind, a fully idealized world, "a beautiful realm"
In the winter of 1886 to 1887, Van Gogh bought several hundred inexpensive Japanese prints (finally, he had more than 600 copies), which he met in the attic of art dealers in Paris.

He also found their colorful aesthetics pleasing, he hoped to make a little money selling some of them: in the spring of 1887, he had collected enough to arrange a mold exhibition, each sold for the price of an alcoholic drink, at Le Tambourin café , which is run by her lover Agostina Segatori in the working class environment of Montmartre. (Van Gogh later called the show "disaster".)

Because of this, he painted Segatori, in a portrait from 1887, with a print of a Japanese geisha and his assistant in the background.

The impact of Japanese prints on Van Gogh's paintings during this period is well known. In 1887, he made several print copies by Japanese artists, including, first, a beautiful view of a plum tree, and then another, this time depicting people running under umbrellas along a bridge while bathing at night, both by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858).

He also made a painting of a Japanese prostitute wearing a beautiful kimono, which he copied from the cover of a magazine, and two portraits of shopkeepers and paint seller Julien 'Père' Tanguy, sitting on a flat, colorful background like Japanese prints.

Ideal made real
At Arles, however, Van Gogh also pinned Japanese prints to the walls of his studio (he then asked Theo to send additional sheets from his collection in Paris), their influence on his own art becoming deeper and less literal.

At that time, in Van Gogh's mind, Japan was a fully idealized area, according to Nienke Bakker, curator of the exhibition in Amsterdam. In particular "a very different exotic world" was raised in colorful Japanese prints - "a beautiful natural beauty, with many women wearing kimono, as well as flowers and birds".

Van Gogh considers Japan to print a model of pure artistic expression, not corrupted by Western ways of representation: "Japanese art is something primitive, like the Greeks, like our old Dutch people, Rembrandt, Potter, Hals, Vermeer, Ostade, Ruisdael , "he wrote to Theo in July 1888." wrote to Theo in July 1888. "It does not end."

Van Gogh began experimenting with aspects of Japanese prints in his own paintings, including the use of bright and flat colors, unusual pruning, and horizon removal
Instead of continuing to copy Japanese prints, however, Van Gogh began experimenting with aspects of them in his own paintings, including the use of bright, flat and diagonal colors that were strong, close-up views and bird's eyes, unusual pruning, removal of the horizon and isolation of protruding objects, such as large tree trunks, in the foreground.

Inspired by nature, he painted flowers, including, on several unforgettable occasions, iris - comparing one of these spring's views with "the Japanese dream".

He also produced still-life works, inspired by motifs in Japanese art, as well as strong and confident drawings, executed using a reed pen, which he felt was "in the style of Japanese prints".

With their dots and lines, they spread the visual vocabulary of Japanese artist master Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), who happened to be one of only two Japanese artists mentioned by Van Gogh in his letters (the other is someone which he called "Monorou", referring to 17th-century artist Hishikawa Moronobu).

"The Japanese draw fast, very fast, like lightning," wrote Van Gogh, "because the nerves are smoother, the feelings are simpler."

Calm after the storm
In the summer of 1888, Van Gogh even described himself in a self-portrait as a "bonze", as he mentioned in a letter to Gauguin, "a simple devotee of the eternal Buddha" - a Japanese monk, with a shaved head.

Meanwhile, in his famous Self-Portrait Bandaged Ear (1889), from Courtauld Gallery in London, he included his favorite Japanese 'crépon' (ie printed on crumpled paper, like crêpe), which depicted geisha in the landscape , on the wall behind his head.

This painting offers an optimistic note in melancholy scenes, such as Van Gogh presenting himself in a hat and coat, sheltering from the cold in his studio, with a blank canvas behind him, after returning home from the hospital for mutilating his own ears from mental disorders.

Less than five months after the first disorder, in December 1888, he was admitted to a mental hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in May 1889.

Referring to Courtauld's paintings, which are now in Amsterdam for exhibition purposes, Bakker explained: "She is sick, Gauguin has left, and she has to start a new life. And this mold, with the natural world and beautiful and colorful women, symbolizes her love eternal to Japanese art. It represents his dream of the South as a painter's paradise. "

Van Gogh said that one needed to do a portrait of what Monet had done for the landscape, and make it modern -
Nienke Bakker
At this point, the "dream" of Japanese art has completely changed Van Gogh's approach to portrait painting. Unlike Japanese art connoisseurs, who were interested in prints from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Van Gogh was interested in newer 19th-century sheets: cheap, shabby colored actors and performers, ignored by most collectors. .

Japanese paintings that inspired Van Gogh

One of the fresh insights offered by the Amsterdam exhibition is the juxtaposition of the choice of "run-of-the-mill" art (as Van Gogh calls it), some of which are owned, in addition to his extraordinary portraits of ordinary Provençe people, from 1888-1889.

The resemblance - little mentioned until now - is remarkable: intense color, almost tacky; flattened drawing space; the use of hard, semi-abstract patterns, such as in the background of Van Gogh's La Berceuse , aka Woman Rocking the Cradle (1889), in which he made five versions.

"In one of his letters, Van Gogh said that one needs to do what Monet does for the landscape, and make it modern," Bakker said.

"That is his ambition for portraits of his friends in Arles."

One way he found to make his portrait "modern" was to incorporate in it a picture device borrowed from ordinary Japanese prints.

In the end, for Bakker, Van Gogh's relationship with Japanese art far exceeded imitation. "This is more than just saying, look, here is a tree blooming on Japanese pieces of wood, and there Van Gogh is doing the same thing. He is not just imitating. He is studying this mold, and they are forming his perspective, the choices he made in creating his own art, "said Bakker, then took a pause.

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