Vincent Van Gogh is undoubtedly one of the greatest painters in the history of art. The talented post-impressionist created many beautiful works that still inspire awe, emotion and great admiration. The artist has repeatedly tried painting in different trends and has continually expanded his portfolio. Van Gogh also created a series of Japanese-style paintings. The painter, who loved art with reciprocity, unfortunately had a very sad life, as evidenced by his letters to his brother Theo and numerous works. Why was it Japan that resided in the artist’s heart? What captivated him about Japanese painting? How did his feelings influence the images he created?

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“What is done with love is done well.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Master Painter

Van Gogh is a master painter on many levels. The artist has worked in many trends constantly developing and expanding his painting horizons. Since he settled in his beloved Paris, he has experimented with different styles. One day he spotted a beautiful Japanese 18th century woodcut. Since then, he has fallen in love with the Land of the Cherry Blossom-its culture, art and history. Many scholars claim that Van Gogh had an excellent understanding of Japanese painting. He loved admiring the works and creating them. The Impressionist claimed that painting in the Japanese style brought him pure joy and allowed him to be transported for a moment to another, distant exotic place full of beautiful colors.


Japanese woodcuts-Ukiyo-e-have won the artist a huge following. Van Gogh decided to start collecting them while in Paris. Collecting these works was his pride-he collected a very large sum of woodcuts over several years. He considered them proof that beauty lies in minimalism. Subdued colors, thoughtful conception and simplicity-this is what characterizes these remarkable creations. The painter admitted that from the Japanese he learned calmness, analysis, precision and patience.

Nationwide network focusing on cultural and business promotion of Japan (1920×200 px)

Inspired by Japan

Yugen means “latent being” in Japanese. Van Gogh wanted to capture it in his works-he considered it a priority in creating not only Japanese-style paintings, but also working on works in other trends. Researchers of the works say that the painter had his own unusual idea of Japan, where he himself had never been. In letters to his brother Theo, Van Gogh repeatedly mentions his admiration for Far Eastern art.

A new beginning in Arles

After moving to Arles, Van Gogh felt that his beloved Japan was not so far away. The artist loved the beautiful floral fields. Provence brought him much inspiration, and he claimed it was his Japanese dream. The master found a piece of Japan in southern France.

“After a while your point of view changes, you look with a Japanese eye, you experience colors differently. I am convinced that my personality will develop if I stay here longer.”

Van Gogh - the master painter
Van Gogh’s Japhet

Van Gogh and the Japanese

The term Japonaiserie in art (from the French Japonaiserie) was first used by Van Gogh himself. He used the term to describe the influence of Japanese art on European painting. Nowadays, it is also used as a term for the painting period in Van Gogh’s life, when he created works in Japanese aesthetics. One of the works created during this period is “Portrait of Father Tanguy.”


Van Gogh also created a portrait of a woman, titled “A Woman. “Courtesan. He was a regular visitor to brothels, and the picture he painted depicts a lady whom he stripped of her poeticism and delicacy to show the profession she performed. The work was inspired by the work of Japanese painter Kesai Eisen.

A humble monk

Van Gogh wanted to emphasize his bond with Japan. He decided to paint his self-portrait, in which he portrayed himself as a Buddhist monk. He dedicated this work to his primate Paul Gaugin The artist emphasized how close to his ideals the life of Buddhists is – they lead a simple, modest life in poverty, in harmony with nature and its rhythms. He wanted to pour his fascination with l’art japonais onto canvas.

“Please, isn’t what we are taught by these simple Japanese, who live among nature as if they were flowers themselves, almost a true religion? And you can’t study Japanese art without becoming more cheerful and happy at the same time; you have to return to nature despite our education and our work in the world of convention.”

Features of Japanese

Van Gogh’s paintings in the Japanese style are characterized by a wide color palette, a motif of flowers and fruit trees, great emotionality and an unusual lightness of form. Simplicity combined with energetic colors evokes warm, positive emotions in the recipient. The master was perfectly able to encapsulate his mood in the artwork he created. During this period Van Gogh spent most of his time painting outdoors-at that time he felt happiness, which, unfortunately, did not visit his life very often. He cherished moments spent in the garden and in the flower fields.

Japanese virtuosos

Van Gogh admired Japanese artists for their masterful brushstrokes, perfectly chosen colors, as well as their depiction of nature and capture of the beauty of the surrounding world. He especially observed the works of painter Ando Hiroshige and Hokusai Katsushika. Both are considered among the most influential artists in Japan- Van Gogh’s creation of Japanese experienced their influence. Many times their works feature motifs of Japanese culture, nature, as well as provincial landscapes. They were able to capture the essence of the aesthetics of the Land of the Cherry Blossom in a remarkable way, and their paintings are still of great interest to art lovers today.

Van Gogh mapping of Japanese inspiration
Van Gogh mask

Vincent’s Mimesis

Van Gogh reproduced the works of his Japanese inspirations – he wanted his works to also affect the senses and contain a part of the artist. He was keen to include elements characteristic of his paintings when creating copies – these included more vivid, contrasting colors, a change in perspective or signatures that united all Impressionists. Gentle brush strokes. Van Gogh defined a border containing arbitrarily repainted Chinese characters as a feature of the Japanese – he acknowledged that they were merely an aesthetic asset.

Loss of hope and another chapter

Vincent Van Gogh in the period before his death began to doubt his own abilities. Through a bad financial situation, random events, loneliness and powerlessness in the face of illness, the artist’s mental problems worsened. When sadness began to fill his heart, the painter gave up creating colorful compositions-but that doesn’t mean he said goodbye to the Japanese style forever.

In the heart of Japan-forever

Van Gogh drew on his beloved motifs to the end, and experts say he had a gift for seeing with a “Japanese eye.” The master had Japan in his heart despite the fact that he never got to visit it. The artist walked away believing that his works did not deserve fame or attention. Underrated during his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh is now considered one of the most important and influential painters of all time. People enjoy visiting exhibitions of his paintings and the places he loves. Van Gogh’s paintings allow you to pause for a moment to contemplate, as well as to understand how the master himself felt thanks to his brilliant depiction of feelings.

“When one studies Japanese art, one sees that a wise, intelligent, philosophical man spends his time on what? On studying the distance between the earth and the moon? On exploring Bismarck’s policies? No, he studies a blade of grass. But it is a blade of grass that later allows him to draw all the plants, and then the seasons, landscapes, animals, and finally the human figure. This is how he spends his life, and life is too short for him to do anything.”

You can read more about the art in the article: This is not an art store. Dagma Art Gallery

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