EXHIBITION ON SCREEN, the award-winning and much-loved cinematic series that explores the biographies of history’s most revered artists, concludes its sixth season with Van Gogh & Japan, released in cinemas nationwide from 4 June. Van Gogh & Japan journeys from the critically acclaimed exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, to the beauty of Provence and the enigma of Japan itself. Featuring Van Gogh’s personal letters and written accounts by friends and contemporaries this extraordinary and moving film reveals the fascinating story of Van Gogh’s little-known deep connection to Japanese art, despite never travelling to Japan himself, and the role it has in understanding his most iconic works. As well as investigating the expression of Van Gogh’s ‘japonisme’, the film explores how Japanese society have developed an affinity to Van Gogh’s work as a result of his engagement with their culture. Featuring insights from contemporary artists, including calligrapher Tomoko Kawao and performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, Van Gogh & Japan provides revealing and modern perspectives on the rich, symbiotic relationship between Van Gogh and Japan.
As the Edo period came to an end in 1868 and Japan opened up to the West, Paris became awash with all things Japanese in the form of decorative objects and colourful woodcut prints called ‘ukiyo-e’. Whilst Van Gogh had no desire to visit Japan, he became fascinated with elements of their visual culture and how they could be adapted in his own pursuit of a new way of seeing. He read descriptions of Japan and studied Japanese works carefully, learning from their bold and contrasting use of colour, their compositional fluidity of line and their unusual croppings of natural forms. He also acquired a large quantity of Japanese prints which he tried to sell without success, although they did provide a great source of inspiration.