Japanese and Dutch Art: Hiroshige and the Altered Mirage by Van Gogh

Japanese and Dutch Art: Hiroshige and the Altered Mirage by Van Gogh

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Ando (Utagawa) Hiroshige (1797-1858) is one of the most famous Japanese ukiyo-e artists to have impacted greatly internationally. This reality came to the attention of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and other European artists of high distinction. Therefore, the art pieces by Van Gogh who is paying homage to Hiroshige are extremely illuminating.

The art piece titled Bridge in the Rain by Van Gogh is a visible reminder of the impact of Japanese ukiyo-e on the soul of this esteemed Dutch artist. Indeed, the passion of this extremely adorable art piece by Van Gogh weaves naturally within the original by Hiroshige. This reality is abundantly clear despite major differences in relation to color schemes, texture, the power of nature, and other important factors.


Visibly, the original by Hiroshige titled Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake appears more tranquil. Yes, it is clear that in both respective art pieces the weather is extremely negative based on rain and a swirling wind. However, despite this, the art produced by Hokusai is gentler because of the color scheme of the backdrop and landscape.  Therefore, just like Buddhism and Shintoism became to share a similar space within the land of the rising sun, irrespective if certain historical periods favored one faith over the other, it could equally be said that the fusion of nature and humans is interacting more in tandem despite the harsh weather conditions in the art piece by Hiroshige.

The Van Gogh Museum says, Bridge in the Rain is a painted copy of a woodcut by the Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige. All the same, the work has a style of its own. Rather than attempting to imitate the smooth surface of the paper print, Van Gogh used conspicuous brushstrokes. He rendered the water with visible touches, the texture of which clearly reveals that this is paint on canvas. He also chose brighter colors than those in his example.”


It is known that Van Gogh stated “very diverting” in a letter he wrote after buying his first prints of Japanese ukiyo-e art. Therefore, one can only imagine the joy of Van Gogh when he purchased Japanese art for the first time in Antwerp. Given this reality, then the homage that Van Gogh is paying to Hiroshige is elevated to an even higher degree in the stunning art piece titled Bridge in the Rain.



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