Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection Part 2


In this painting Van Gogh freely follows a print "The plum tree teahouse at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki)" by the Japanese print artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). The teahouse at the Kameido shrine in Tokyo was famous for its plum tree blossoms and attracted many people. Van Gogh was probably fascinated by the contrast between the gnarled plum tree in the foreground and the visitors to the garden seen in the distance. He enlarged the image by tracing the original work and transferring it to canvas by means of a grid. By using starker colors and a style typical of his work from this period, the picture becomes more an interpretation of Hiroshige’s print than a real copy. The border contains a mixture of calligraphy taken from four other Japanese prints. The text has no coherent meaning, it is primarily decorative.

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