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Van Gogh was an enthusiastic buyer of Japanese prints, most of which he acquired from the shop of a man named Bing, a Paris-based dealer who specialised in Japanese art. Later, in the South of France, Van Gogh wrote his brother Theo (who was in Holland) to describe the reasons for his love for the art of Japan. He told Theo that Japanese art makes us “happier and more cheerful.” It is an art of great simplicity, for the Japanese artist can find beauty in “a single blade of grass” and can create pictures rapidly, “with a few confident strokes.” Van Gogh particularly admired the prints: “Japanese prints, coloured in flat tones, are admirable”. Many of Van Gogh’s own paintings contain allusions to Japan. For example, Japanese prints are depicted in the background of his portraits of Pére Tanguy and Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear. Some of his paintings are very “Japanesey” in their subject matter, for example Branches of an Almond Tree in Blossom.
But more important was influence which the Japanese prints had on the actual style of Van Gogh’s work. At first sight, his painting Emperor Moth has no obvious connection to the art of Japan, but if we examine it more closely we can see how deeply Van Gogh had absorbed Japanese aesthetic principles. He told Theo that he had encountered “a rather rare night moth called the ‘death’s head’, its coloration astonishingly distinguished: black, grey, white, shaded, and with glints of carmine or vaguely tending towards olive green”....
What also strikes us about the painting is its bold design and draughtsman-like qualities. The forms are edged with hard outlines, like the forms in a Japanese print. The painting has a decorative and semi-abstract quality, possibly reminding us of Japanese textile patterns, while the wings of the moth could almost make us think of the patterns on a kimono. The earlier letter to Theo had praised the “flat tones” of Japanese prints, and the painting is basically a flat design, without much perspective depth. The letter to Theo praised the rapid, calligraphic brushwork of Japanese painting, seen here in the rapid delineation of the grasses and the leaves. Van Gogh had also written to Theo about the Japanese love of nature and simplicity, seen here in his own painting of a single moth, set against a background of plants. Hokusai – most famous for his print of The Great Wave at Kanagawa - was a Japanese printmaker whom Van Gogh much admired, and we could compare Van Gogh’s Emperor Moth with prints like Hokusai’s Irises and Meadow Cicada and Hibiscus and Sparrow, which depict details of nature (illustrated in Fahr-Becker 154-155). Hokusai wrote that he wanted to understand “the nature of birds, animals, insects, fishes – the vital nature of grasses and trees” (Stanley-Baker 192), which reminds us of Van Gogh’s paintings of butterflies, clumps of grass, lilacs and irises, all of which he painted around the same time as his moth picture (McQuillan184). It is important that Hokusai devoted a great deal of attention not just to flowers but also to their stems and their leaves. This can be seen in Van Gogh’s Emperor Moth painting,
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Starry Night is a clear example of oil on canvas painting. The painting describes a small town that is put adjacent to a blue and cosmic dark sky filled with dazzling stars. Starry Night represents an artist’s attempt to show his perception about reality as Van Gogh successfully showed his expressionism in the creation of a distinct interpretation of reality.
The Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most celebrated painters in the 18th century. He is considered as an Impressionist and most of his artworks are popular to art patrons which makes the artworks expensive.
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