after a Japanese print by Hiroshige from the extensive collection he shared with his brother Theo. Vincent closely followed the composition of Hiroshige, but not the exact colours of the original. The Oriental characters he painted on the frame were derived from a Japanese example, but the text is meaningless and their function is primarily decorative.
The ancient plum tree that was the subject of the original print by Hiroshige had the poetic nickname of ‘the sleeping dragon plum tree’, a name describing the branching via a network of underground roots emerging elsewhere above ground.
What did Van Gogh learn from Japanese prints?
“Van Gogh’s encounter with Japanese printmaking played a decisive role in the direction he took as an artist. During his time in Paris (1886–88) he became fascinated by ukiyo-e, nineteenth-century Japanese colour woodcuts, and began to collect them on a large scale.” — Van Gogh Museum
Summary of Japanese Influences:
- Bright, flat areas of color
- Bold contour lines
- Prominent diagonals
- Subjects cut off at edge of painting
- Unique use of space: emphasis on foreground and background
- High or absent horizon
- Zooming up close on details of nature
The Van Gogh Museum Exhibit
With some sixty paintings and drawings by Van Gogh and a large selection of Japanese prints, the exhibition explores the extent of Van Gogh’s admiration for this form of art and the fundamental impact it had on his work.” — Van Gogh Museum
Click for Image Detail
“All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art…”
Vincent to his brother Theo from Arles, 15 July 1888
Find out more about Van Gogh and Japan at the Van Gogh Museum .
The exhibition ‘Van Gogh & Japan’ is on view from 23 March until 24 June 2018.