Van Gogh Museum: Seeing with a Japanese Eye

Jolein van Kregten

Curator of Education, Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum P.O.Box 75366 1070 AJ Amsterdam The Netherlands

Museums in Short Award 2018 / Exhibits


A Visual Explanation that Made Museum Visitors Look at Van Gogh’s Art in a New Way



How could the Van Gogh Museum help its audience to really see what Vincent van Gogh admired in the Japanese prints he loved so much? And how could we assist them in discovering the stylistic and compositional elements the artist took from the Japanese woodcuts and integrated in his own art? The animation video "Seeing with a Japanese eye" was the answer to these questions. It became an essential part of the exhibition Van Gogh Japan in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (23 March-24 June 2018). 


With some sixty paintings and drawings by Van Gogh and a large selection of Japanese prints, this exhibition explored the fundamental impact the Japanese example had on Van Goghrs"s art. The Japanese prints were very different from the European art Van Gogh was used to. They taught him a new way of looking at the world. "Seeing with a Japanese eye", Van Gogh called it in a letter. It changed his art forever.
The video provided a visual explanation, with a bare minimum of text. Our goal: after watching the video people should be able to look at an art work by Van Gogh and really see the elements he "adopted" from the Japanese examples, such as the dominant diagonal, the bright colour planes, and the abrupt cut-off of subject matter at the edges of the picture plane. The video therefore functioned as an eye opener: allowing everyone who was interested, to look at Van Gogh's art "with a Japanese eye".



Extra information:

Title of the film: Seeing with a Japanese Eye
Year of production: 2018
Length: 02:01
Director:  Erik Ankoné (Creative Beards)
Soundtrack's author:  Max Sombroek (Nineyards, ) 
Production: Creative Beards, Utrecht, The Netherlands ( )
Museum (idea concept):  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam





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