Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Paris, October-November 1887
oil on cotton,
100.7 cm x 60.7 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Van Gogh based this painting on a woodcut by the Japanese artist Kesai Eisen. The print had been reproduced on the cover of the magazine Paris illustré in 1886. Van Gogh used a grid to copy and enlarge the Japanese figure. He used bright colours and bold outlines, as if it were a woodcut.
We can tell the woman is a courtesan by her hairstyle and the belt (obi) that she is wearing, which is tied at the front of her kimono rather than at the back. Van Gogh framed her with a pond full of water lilies, bamboo stems, cranes and frogs. This scene has a hidden meaning: grue (crane) and grenouille (frog) were French slang words for 'prostitute'.