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Prof. Janet A. Walker: Van Gogh, Collector of "Japan"


Prof. Janet A. Walker
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, USA

"Van Gogh, Collector of Japan"


14. Juni 2007


Gastvortrag  in Kooperation mit Prof. Dr. Jeong-Hee Lee-Kalisch, (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Ostasiatische Kunstgeschichte, Freie Universität Berlin).

It is well known that Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), in establishing the aesthetics of his mature work done from the mid-1880s onward, appropriated ideas and techniques from Japanese woodblock prints and Japanese albums created for export. My goal in this lecture is, thus, not to discuss the influence of Japanese prints on the Dutch artist but rather to examine van Gogh’s imaginative relationship to Japan. Van Gogh built up that relationship through two practices: first, as a collector of Japanese prints, he engaged in the nineteenth-century practice of material collecting in the context of imperialism and colonialism. Second, through his material collecting, and along with other Europeans of his time, he collected, in a metaphorical sense, images of the exotic—in van Gogh’s case, images of what I shall call “Japan,” to emphasize the fantastic and idealized nature of the artist’s construction of Japan. Third, he communicated his personal image of “Japan” in a series of paintings of flowering trees produced in Arles in Spring 1888. The image of the “Japanese” flowering tree is the site of the coming together of the artist’s practices of collecting Japanese prints, of collecting a dream-space called “Japan,” and of painting with the goal of expressing personal symbols of the vitality and sacredness of nature, symbols shaped by his profound engagement with Japanese art and culture.


Zur Person:

Professor Janet A. Walker received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and has been Visiting Professor/Faculty at the Universities of Princeton, Columbia, and Jadavpur, Kolkata, India. Author of The Japanese Novel of the Meiji Period and the Ideal of Individualism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. Co-Editor ofThe Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.