Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige)

Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige)

"... isn’t it almost a new religion that these Japanese teach us, who are so simple and live in nature as if they themselves were flowers? And we wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention" Vincent to Theo, September 24, 1888
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Details:
Painting Date
30th of September 1887
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Description:
 Vincent and Theo had long shared a love and interest for the art of the Japanese.  Vincent writes of his love of Japonaiserie and especially wood block prints and crepe paper prints which enter Paris and the European art world after Japan’s seclusion was ended in the 1850s by a new western trade policy.

In this depiction of rainstorm, one of two homages (along with Flowering Plum Tree) to Hiroshige from his 100 views of Edo, Vincent uses brighter colors and creates greater contrast than the original work by Hiroshige,  “Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake”.  He uses a pointillist or divisionist (a la Seurat or Signac) border of green, orange and red to enhance the green of the river and paints in random copied Japanese characters in black for effect, showing a synthesis of techniques he had learned by October in 1887 in Paris from Signac and Seurat.    Vincent also adds an impressionist reflection of green on the bridge supports which Hiroshige did not depict in his original.

Van Gogh’s subjects on the bridge are perhaps a bit more awkward than Hiroshige’s in a manner unique to Vincent, perhaps seeking to reflect the revealing postures of peasants he depicted so often in his sketching, drawing and early painting in Holland.  One of the figures in the painting is stroking a long boat through the falling raindrops, almost trying to escape the frame at left.  Vincent also chooses to change the two umbrellas at bottom left to a more neutral brown and thus coincide with the raft being paddled along in the distance differing from the darker shade chosen by Hiroshige.

Related items are Hiroshige’s original (also in compare slider view), a close up of Vincent’s painting from the Van Gogh Museum and two other homages to wood block prints by Japanese masters:  Hiroshige’s Flowering Plum Tree and Eisen’s Oiran or Courtesan.

When Vincent arrived in Paris in 1886, he began collecting Japanese wood block prints and crepes from a collector/dealer named Bing who had a studio Vincent called the “attic” at 22 Rue de Provence – about half way to the Louvre from Vincent and Theo’s Montmartre flat.  Vincent admired the way Hiroshige, Eisen and other Japanese masters used broad swaths of color divided by black or dark lines – almost like stained glass.  Vincent hung pieces of his Japanese collection in his home on Rue Lepic and in the restaurant Le Tambourin alongside cut flower paintings created for color experimentation. And for the proprietor and paramour for a short time, Agostina Segatori in exchange for meals and drink.

Vincent argues this method of the Japanese artists use in creating wood block prints is an important technique when combined with the new scientific color theories of Chevreul and Rood and others and seeks to convince his friends from the Cormon studio – Lautrec, Guillamin, Anquetin and Bernard and later Gauguin of the same.  Anquetin and Bernard go on to be acknowledged as the founders of Cloissonism, a method of painting using large swaths of color divided by defining lines, usually dark or black to improve contrast and brighten the effect of color combinations – much like a stained-glass window.

 

“Perhaps the idea of painting portraits and getting the sitters to pay for them by posing is a safer way. Because in the city it’s not like it is with the peasants. Anyway. One thing’s certain, Antwerp’s a very singular and beautiful place for a painter.
My studio’s quite tolerable, mainly because I’ve pinned a set of Japanese prints on the walls that I find very diverting. You know, those little female figures in gardens or on the shore, horsemen, flowers, gnarled thorn branches.”
To Theo van Gogh. Antwerp, Saturday, 28 November 1885
        “If we study Japanese art, then we see a man, undoubtedly wise and a philosopher and intelligent, who spends his time — on what? — studying the distance from the earth to the moon? — no; studying Bismarck’s politics? — no, he studies a single blade of grass.  But this blade of grass leads him to draw all the plants — then the seasons, the broad features of landscapes, finally animals, and then the human figure. He spends his life like that, and life is too short to do everything. Just think of that; isn’t it almost a new religion that these Japanese teach us, who are so simple and live in nature as if they themselves were flowers?  And we wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention” 
Vincent to Theo, September 23/4, 1888

 

 

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 73 x 54 cm Size 20 paysage
Paris: September – October, 1887
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 372, JH: 1297

Where Vincent Was:
Paris

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