The Meeting of Asia and the Netherlands: On Van Gogh’s Challenge in Emulating Rembrandt
The essay grew out of an issue I had been pondering for some time and is an attempt to gain an insight into a secret Van Gogh was eager to discover while comparing himself as an artist with “Rembrandt, the magician”. Van Gogh was convinced that art could succeed where religion had failed. Moreover, there was no need for art to be directly connected with Christianity as a system. For Van Gogh, in this frame of mind, the art of “Japan”, as exemplified by the genre of ukiyo-e, and such like, provided hope. Rembrandt, too, saw oriental art not so much as art in itself but as a method of expressing one’s innermost feelings that were still lacking in European art, and that were, moreover, understood as a source of inspiration for the creation of a new, ideal form of human compassion. Similarly, Van Gogh's art was distilled into a more essential form of itself as his inspiration from the ukiyo-e genre gradually deepened and became more internalized. Therefore, this is something he shared with Rembrandt and related him more closely to the oriental art apparent in work of the Old Master.