The symposium 'Van Gogh & Japan' took place on 6 and 7 June 2018. Topics such as japonism, primitivism and Van Gogh's own collection of Japanese prints have been discussed. Read the insights and conclusions.
To accompany its exhibition Van Gogh & Japan, the Van Gogh Museum organised a symposium dedicated to topics related to the show. Various experts presented their research and exchanged ideas in what turned out to be an inspiring meeting between experts in 19th-century Western art and specialists in Japanese art.
In the first series of lectures the relation between the interest in Japanese art and primitivism was discussed. Van Gogh derived the aesthetics of a flat, decorative style from this new, different kind of art. In the afternoon programme experts elaborated on Van Gogh’s collection of Japanese prints and collections of other artists, such as the neo-impressionists. Van Gogh bought his prints with the idea of selling them. It remains unclear whether or not the collection was the result of careful selection. However, it is certain that that the Japanese prints with their striking bright colours, had tremendous impact on the development of Western art.