Van Gogh’s Irises

In May of 1889, Van Gogh admitted himself to the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France.  In his final year of life, he painted some 130 works.  Within the first week at the asylum, he began to paint Irises; the subject matter was inspired by the asylum’s garden to the south of the men’s section, and the style influenced by Japanese woodblock prints.  We see the Japanese influence in the strong outlines, unusual angles, cropped up-close views of the irises falling off the canvas and the use of color. There are no known drawings or sketches of Irises, probably because Van Gogh considered this to be a study.  He …..

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Van Gogh and Japanese Art, Part 2

Oiran (The Courtesan) Painted in the summer and autumn of 1887, Oiran, also known as The Courtesan, is an image of a Japanese woman copied by Van Gogh from a print by Keisai Eisen which was on the cover of the May 1886 Paris Illustré, a magazine that featured an article about Japan.  Van Gogh’s copy differs from the original in several significant ways. Van Gogh used transparent paper and traced the woman from the cover of the magazine and then created a grid over her so that he could later enlarge and transfer the image to a canvas.  The motifs around the woman, the water landscape, bamboo canes, water …..

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Van Gogh and Japanese Art, Part 1

The Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige) & Flowering Plum Tree (after Hiroshige) In the years following the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, Japanese isolation ended and large numbers of Japanese artifacts made their way into Europe. The 1867 World’s Fair, Paris Exposition Universelle, had a display of Japanese art that wooed the crowds and was the first exposure many Westerners had to the Japanese style. The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists such as Monet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin were all inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. It is believed that Van Gogh was first exposed to Japanese prints in Antwerp in 1885. He bought a number of Japanese prints to decorate …..

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