Van Gogh and Japan film review: beautifully conceived documentary

Van Gogh & Japan.
Van Gogh & Japan.

THE Exhibition on Screen series continues with this exploration of a little-known connection between an artistic giant and a completely different culture that he never saw at close quarters, yet deeply influenced his output.

The renowned Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853, the very year Japan was opened to trade with the United States of America, after centuries of almost total isolation.

One of the results was that Japanese art made its way to Paris, influencing not only van Gogh, but the likes of Claude Monet and Edgar Degas.

Van Gogh acquired hundreds of Japanese prints, initially to sell for profit, but eventually to use as inspiration for his own work.

In Japanese works he saw a definition and heightened understanding of artistry that helped him refine his own style and ensure that what remained on the canvas was what really mattered.

Indeed, he left Paris for the south of France, seeking something as close to the stylised Japan of his imagination and artistic perception as possible.

What followed were turbulent but incredibly productive years that gifted the world some of the greatest artistry ever conceived.

Van Gogh & Japan moves between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, France and Japan to explicate the connections.

But the lack of a real relationship between the artist and the country that so inspired him somewhat hampers the flow.

Had van Gogh ever actually visited the country, there would be something palpable beyond the utterances of art historians.

This is a beautifully conceived documentary and 85 minutes with the work of this artist is never anything but worthwhile. But it’s most likely to appeal to those with very well-trained artistic tastes.

 

THE ESSENTIALS

Van Gogh & Japan (E)

Directed by: David Bickerstaff

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

Three stars

In cinemas: November 23, 24, 27

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