During Vincent van Gogh stay in Paris, he collected more Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints; he became interested in such works when, in 1885, in Antwerp he used them to decorate the walls of his studio. He collected hundreds of prints, which are visible in the backgrounds of several of his paintings. In his 1887 Portrait of Père Tanguy, several can be seen hanging on the wall behind the main figure. In The Courtesan or Oiran (after Kesai Eisen) (1887), Van Gogh traced the figure from a reproduction on the cover of the magazine Paris Illustre, which he then graphically enlarged in the painting. His 1888 Plum Tree in Blossom (After Hiroshige) is a vivid example of the admiration he had for the prints he collected. His version is slightly bolder than Hiroshige's original.
To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Wednesday, 28 May 1884.
My dear Theo,
Just wanted to tell you that Rappard has been here for 10 days or so, and sends you his regards.
As you can imagine, we’ve made several trips together to the weavers and all sorts of fine things outdoors. He was very taken with the scenery here, which is also beginning to appeal to me more and more.
Since he brought the pen drawings with him, I can send them to you now.
Since I made them — even though that’s a relatively short time ago — I’ve got a little out of that way of doing it.
I’ve done nothing but paint recently.
And I’m curious as to whether you’ll see anything in it when you come.
Last winter you wrote to me that you found passages here and there in my watercolours of that time which satisfied you more than before in terms of colour and tone. And then you said something like ‘if you kept that up’.
You’ll see that I’ll very definitely keep it up, and that what was in those watercolours has been strengthened quite a lot in what I’ve painted since.
I’ve just now made a figure of a weaver standing in front of a loom, and one sees the machine behind him.
And I’m working on a landscape of the pond at the bottom of our garden.
Rappard has made a small weaver here, which I thought very good, and a bust of a girl winding yarn. While he was here I made another Weaver’s cottage by night, again in the style of those Drenthe huts.
Rappard is going to make a large painting of the fish market in Utrecht, with many figures.
I hope I’ll still be able to show you some things of his if you do come this summer. For he’s promised to send me some of his work once in a while, as I’ll also send him mine, so that we can each have some idea of what the other is doing.
I’m very pleased with the new studio; it’s roomier and good and dry.
I hope to hear from you soon, I’ve had rather a lot of expenses because of the new studio.
But of course it helps me a great deal that I don’t have to pay for my board, otherwise I would not be able to paint as much as I’ve been able to do recently. And I believe you’ll see, when you come, that because this is now more possible for me it has also helped me to progress. R. thought so, anyway, with whom I don’t want to change places at the moment where colour is concerned.
Regards, write soon, and believe me, with a handshake
The Weaver drawing is the drawing of a machine after the painting I’m working on. As well as the machinery, though, it also has a little of the forces, and the light and shade of the loom &c. But please don’t think that this is the general effect in the painting. For the painting isn’t so dry.