COURTESAN (ACCORDING TO REQUIREMENTS)
Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Paris, October-November 1887
Original: oil on cotton, 60.7 x 100.7 cm bxh
Van Gogh made this painting after a print by the Japanese artist Kesai Eisen. The print appeared on the cover of the 1886 issue of Paris illustré. Van Gogh copied and enlarged the Japanese lady using a grid. He used bright colours and strong contours, as if it were a woodcut.
That she is a courtesan, a woman of loose morals, can be seen from her hairstyle and from the belt (obi). This is tied at the front rather than the back of her kimono. Van Gogh framed her with a pond full of water lilies, bamboo stems, cranes and frogs. Therein lies a hidden meaning: grue (crane) and grenouille (frog) were popular synonyms for prostitutes in France.
Interesting, read more about how Vincent was inspired by the Japanese prints here on the website of the Van Gogh Museum.
“And I don't think you can study Japanese art without becoming much happier and happier and it makes us return to nature, despite our upbringing and our work in a world full of conventions,” Vincent wrote to his brother Theo on 23 or 24 Sep 1888
This masterpiece by Vincent van Gogh can be seen in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Read more about the life and work of Vincent van Gogh on his painter page.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
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