Van Gogh & Japan at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, March 23 – June 24, 2018

“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.

What Van Gogh so admired about these colourful prints were the unconventional compositions, the large planes in bright colours and the focus on details in nature. The three remarkable paintings he made after Japanese prints while he was in Paris were his first exploration of this new artistic model.

Van Gogh swiftly came to identify Japanese art as a benchmark for his work, as we learn from the letters he wrote from Arles, where he moved in early 1888 with the idea that the South of France was ‘the equivalent of Japan’. He learnt to look ‘with a more Japanese eye’ and made ‘paintings like Japanese prints’. Van Gogh & Japan shows how Van Gogh began increasingly to work in the spirit of the oriental example, with the emphasis on a bold, colourful palette.

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

“All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art…” Vincent to his brother Theo from Arles, 15 July 1888

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Paris, October-November 1887. Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige), oil on canvas, 73.3 cm x 53.8 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Paris, October-November 1887. Courtesan (after Eisen), oil on canvas, 100.7 cm x 60.7 cm.  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, February 1890. Almond Blossom, oil on canvas, 73.3 cm x 92.4 cm.  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Arles, October 1888. The Bedroom, oil on canvas, 72.4 cm x 91.3 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Vincent van Gogh, La Crau with Peach Trees in Blossom, 1889. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Vincent van Gogh, La Crau with Peach Trees in Blossom, 1889. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Vincent van Gogh, The Arlésienne (Marie Ginoux), 1888 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Sam A. Lewisohn, 1951

Vincent van Gogh, Woman Rocking the Cradle (Augustine Roulin), 1889, The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926

Vincent van Gogh, Undergrowth with Two Figures, 1890. Cincinnati Art Museum, Bequest of Mary E. Johnston, 1967

Katsushika Hokusai, Under the Wave of Kanagawa, 1829-1833, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Katsushika Hokusai, Fuji Seen from the Katakura Tea Plantation in the Suruga Province, 1831-1835. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, purchased with the support of the F.G. Waller-Fonds

Utagawa Hiroshige II, Lake Chūzenji in Shimotsuke Province, 1859-1861, Nationaal Museum voor Wereldculturen, Leiden

Utagawa Hiroshige II, Plum Garden at Kamata, 1857, Nationaal Museum voor Wereldculturen, Leiden

Van Gogh & Japan is a collaborative project with Hokkaido Shimbun Press and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Sapporo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.

Images courtesy Van Gogh Museum.