Seeing with a Japanese eye

Seeing with a

Japanese eye

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Slide 1: Slide
Art and designSecondary EducationAge 13

This lesson contains 13 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 1 video.

time-iconLesson duration is: 15 min

Introduction

Japanese prints were a huge source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh. Explore, together with your pupils, the impact of Japanese prints on Van Gogh’s work in this interactive lesson with video.

Instructions

General learning objectives
- The pupils get to know about Vincent van Gogh
- The pupils will be able to identify and describe the impact of Japanese printmaking on the work of Van Gogh.

Materials required
- Mobile phones (optional)

Alternatives
To save time, one or more projects can be skipped.

Background information
More information about  Van Gogh and Japan.

Items in this lesson

Seeing with a

Japanese eye

Slide 1 - Slide

Japanese printmaking was one of Vincent van Gogh’s biggest sources of inspiration. The prints taught him to look differently at the world. They helped him to modernise his art.

Vincent wrote:
“And we wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much happier and more cheerful”
Vincent to his brother Theo, September 1888.

Slide 2 - Slide

You can explain that among other things, Vincent liked the cheerful, bold colours which distinguish many Japanese prints.
Although Vincent never went to Japan himself, he was captivated by it for a period.
Japonism

Slide 3 - Slide

Vincent was certainly not alone in being inspired by Japan. At that time, Japanese things were all the rage. Japanese woodcuts were imported in great numbers.
Vincents collection

Slide 4 - Slide

Tell: Vincent collected hundreds of Japanese prints. You can see some of the ones in his collection on this slide. He often decorated his living spaces with them. He also mounted an exhibition of Japanese prints in a Parisian café. Some of the prints even have thumbtack holes in them.
Ask the pupils to name the similarities between these prints. You could also ask what they decorate their own rooms with.


Similarities:
• Flat planes of colour
• Striking diagonals
• Subjects cut off at the picture edges
• Prominent contours
• Distinctive spatial arrangements with the emphasis on foreground and background.
• Little use of shading

Slide 5 - Video

So Vincent liked Japanese prints. But what exactly was the impact of Japanese printmaking on Vincent’s work? Find out in this video (2.11 mins long).
Artist Utugawa Hiroshinge
Title Hakone: View of the Lake
Date ca. 1833-1834
Collection Collection Dorhout
In brief:
what did Vincent borrow from Japanese prints?

Slide 6 - Mind map

Teaching format: pupils can answer questions on their phones. This exercise will also work without phones, by writing the answers on the interactive whiteboard (click on the pencil icon).

Answers:
• Bright colours and flat planes of colour
• Striking diagonals
• Subjects cut off at the picture edges
• Prominent contours
• Distinctive spatial arrangements with the emphasis on foreground and background.
• High horizon or no horizon
• Zooming in on details in nature


And what is Japanese about this?

Slide 7 - Mind map

Answer: the high horizon, the cropping and the prominent contours.
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title Woman Rocking the Cradle (Augustine Roulin)
Date 1889
Collection The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926
And what is Japanese about this painting?

Slide 8 - Mind map

Answer: bright colours; flat planes of colour; big, decorative flowers; prominent contours.

Did Vincent’s contemporaries, Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, also look with a Japanese eye?



Artist Paul Gauguin
Title Self-Portrait with Portrait of Bernard
Date 1888
Collection Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Artist Émile Bernard
Title Self-Portrait with Portrait of Gauguin
Date 1888
Collection Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 9 - Slide

Tell: As already mentioned, Vincent’s contemporaries were also inspired by Japan.


Go to the next slide and let the pupils answer the question on their phones.

Did Vincent’s contemporaries, Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, also look with a Japanese eye?
A
Yes
B
No

Slide 10 - Quiz

A is the right answer. Discuss the answers with the pupils.

 

Answer: you can see that Bernard and Gauguin were also inspired by Japanese prints, most clearly evident in their big, bright, flat planes of colour and clear contour lines.


Which work would you leave out?

A
C
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title Almond blossom
Date 1890
Collection Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
D
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title The Garden of Saint Paul's Hospital ('Leaf-Fall')
Date 1889
Collection Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
B
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige)
Date 1887
Collection Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 11 - Slide

Give the pupils the following exercise: imagine you’re organising a mini-exhibition about Van Gogh and Japan. You can include three works. Which of these works would you leave out and why?
Let the pupils begin by looking closely. Then go to the next slide so they can answer the question with their phones.
Welk werk zou jij weglaten ?
A
Snowy Landscape with Arles in the Background
B
Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige)
C
Almond blossom
D
The Garden of Saint Paul's Hospital ('Leaf-Fall')

Slide 12 - Quiz

Discuss the pupils’ answers.

Did “seeing with a Japanese eye” make Vincent’s work more modern? What do you think?
C
Kunstenaar Vincent van Gogh
Titel Amandelbloesem
Datering 1890
Collectie Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 13 - Open question

Tell: Here you see The harvest, which Vincent made in Arles. Discuss with the pupils how Vincent used Japanese prints to modernise his work.
You can refer to slide 6 for possible answers.
Discuss the answers and bring the lesson to a close