Japanese Woodblock Prints Changing the World

Van Gogh totally rocking

A friend and I recently attended an exhibit at the Smithsonian of some guy’s collection of Late 19th- Mid-20th century Japanese woodblock prints, or Hanga.

It turns out that at the Japanese National Museum in Tokyo they were running a similar exhibit at the same time. I didn’t check it out but it was probably a different collection of prints.

Anyway here (thanks to FG for the link) is an article describing the boom that Japanese art experienced at the end of the 19th century and how it influenced Van Gogh. Here is something he wrote to his sister whilst in the grip of madness:

Theo wrote that he offered you Japanese woodblock prints. That is certainly the best way to understand which direction the light and colorful painting has taken. Here I need no Japanese woodblock prints, because I am here in Japan. This is why I only have to open my eyes and paint the impressions that I receive.

Currently in America there is kind of a Japanese culture boom as well, except mostly in children’s entertainment rather than art. Perhaps, like the Japonisme boom of 100 years ago, this won’t be permanent but the best work resulting from it will leave a lasting effect on pop culture.