In Van Gogh and Japan Louis van Tilborgh explores Vincent van Gogh’s love of Japanese graphic art. Louis is Senior Researcher at the Van Gogh Museum.
Van Gogh started collecting Japanese prints while he was living in Paris, and became convinced of the need to look at things and to work ‘as the Japanese do’. When he moved to Arles in 1888, this developed into almost a religion. He now regarded the success, the future of modern art as being almost wholly dependent on emulating this exotic example.
Passionate as it was, however, Van Gogh’s love affair with Japan receded into the background after a year. He continued to venerate Japanese artists, but he now saw his own efforts to work in their soirit as overambitious. ‘Well then, I shall never mean anything significant as a painter, I fully realize that,’ he wrote despondently. Van Gogh and Japan shows just how wrong he was.