The Meeting of Asia and the Netherlands: On Van Gogh’s Challenge in Emulating Rembrandt




van Gogh, 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.


Brook, T. (2007). Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Cooper, D. (Ed.). (1983). Paul Gauguin: 45 Lettres à Vincent, Théo et Jo van Gogh: Collection Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. ‘s-Gravenhage/Lausanne: Staatsuitgeverij La Bibliothèque des arts. (1989). Wunderblock. Eine Geschichte der modernen Seele (Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien). Wien: Löcker Verlag. (1989), Sievernich, G., & Budde, H. (Eds.). Europa und der Orient 800–1900 (Martin- Gropius-Bau in Berlin). Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag. (1995). Van Gogh: Die Pariser Selbstbildnisse (Hamburger Kunsthalle). Stuttgart: Gerd Hatje Verlag. (1999), Van den Boogert. B. (Ed.). Rembrandt’s Treasures (Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam). Zwolle: Waanders Publishers. (2000-01). Van Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits (Detroit Institute of Arts / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston / Philadelphia Museum of Art). London: Thames & Hudson. (2001-02). Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South (The Art Institute of Chicago / Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). New York: Thames & Hudson. (2003). Vincent’s Choice: The Musée Imaginaire of Van Gogh (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). London: Thames & Hudson. (2011-12). Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye ( Centre P ompidou, P aris / Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt / Tate Modern, London). London: Tate Publishing. (2012-13). Van Gogh: rêves de Japon (Pinacothèque de Paris). Paris: Editions Gourcuff Gradenigo. (2013-15). Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh… Japanese Inspirations Museum Folkwang (Essen / Kunsthaus Zürich). Göttingen: Edition Folkwang/Steidl.

Filipczak, Z. Z. (2007-08). Rembrandt and the body language of Mughal miniatures. Body and Embodiment in Netherlandish Art / Lichaam en Lichamelijkheid in de Nederlandse Kunst, Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art. 58 (Brill), 163-187. DOI:

Gauguin, P. (1888). Letter to Vincent van Gogh, Pont-Aven, Monday, 1 October 1888, no. 692. Retrieved from

Hulsker, J. (1996). The New Complete van Gogh Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. DOI:

Hecht, P. (2006). Van Gogh en Rembrandt. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum.

Jansen, L., Luijten, H., & Bakker, N. (Eds.). (2009). Vincent Van Gogh: The letters, 6 vols. London: Thames & Hudson.

Kōdera, T. (1990). Vincent van Gogh: Christianity versus nature. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. DOI:

Kōdera, T. (2009). Fan Gohho: shizen to shūkyō no tōsō [guófǔsìsī «ファン · ゴッホ: zìránとzōngjiào のdòuzhēng» , Van Gogh: Nature versus Religion]. Tōkyō: Shogakukan Inc.

Kofuku, A. (Ed.). (2018). 17 seiki Oranda bijutsu to Ajia [xìngfúhuībiān «17shìjìオランダměishùと «ア ジア» » , 17th century Dutch Art and Asia]. Tōkyō: Chūokoron Publisher.

Lindert, J. van, & Uitert, E. van. (1990). Vincent van Gogh en zijn Portretten. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff/Landshoff.

Lloyd, J. (2006-07). Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism, exh. cat. Amsterdam/New York: Hatje Cantz Verlag.

Ozaki, A. (2004). Renburanto no korekushon: jikoseikei he no chōsen [wěiqízhānghóng «レンブラント のコレクション: zìjǐchéngxíngへのtiāozhàn» , Rembrandt’s Collection: Challenges to Self-fashioning]. Tōkyō: Sangensha.

Ozaki, A. (2014), L’impatto della sfida di Van Gogh a Rembrandt. Art History (Bijutushigaku). 35, 1-19.

Pomeranz, K. (2000). The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. DOI:

Wetering, E. van (Ed.). (2005). A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. IV. The Self-Portraits. Dordrecht: Springer. DOI:

Rappard-Boon, I. van, Gulik, W. van, & Bremen-Ito, K. van. (2006). Japanese Prints: Catalogue of the Van Gogh Museum’s Collection. Zwolle: W Books.

van Gogh, V. (1882). Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 17 or Monday, 18 September 1882, no. 265. Retrieved from

van Gogh, V. (1888a). Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 17 or Tuesday, 18 December 1888, no. 726. Retrieved from

van Gogh, V. (1888b). Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Friday, 16 March 1888, no. 585. Retrieved from

van Gogh, V. (1888c). Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 21 February 1888. no. 577. Retrieved from

van Gogh, V. (1888d). Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 24 February 1888. no. 578. Retrieved from

van Gogh, V. (1888e). Letter to Emile Bernard. Arles, Wednesday, 3 October 1888. Retrieved from

Van Gogh, V. (1888f). Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, Thursday, 4 or Friday, 5 October 1888, no. 697. Retrieved from

Van Gogh, V. (1888g). Letter to Paul Gauguin. Arles, Wednesday, 3 October 1888, no. 695. Retrieved from

Zempel, C. (1997). Van Gogh’s Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late-Nineteenth-Century Art. DOI:

Berkley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press.




How to Cite

Akihiro, O. (2020). The Meeting of Asia and the Netherlands: On Van Gogh’s Challenge in Emulating Rembrandt. Intercultural Relations, 4(2(8), 37–51.