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 Anthon van Rappard. Nuenen, on or about Thursday, 29 May 1884.
My dear friend Rappard,
I heartily congratulate you on the silver medal you got in London. It’s a satisfaction to me that I said what I said about that painting at the time. And to have repeated it yet again recently, specifically in our conversation on that Friday when I said to you, ‘I found something in the colour of that painting, the Woman spinning, that seems to me better and more solid than what I’ve seen you paint here’.
All the same, the little weaver is an exception to this, as I also stipulated then.
Starting a painting in a low register and then seeking to raise it from low upward, I found that system in your woman spinning at the time — although it was a very original way of doing things. On that Friday I reminded you of your own words about that painting in one of your letters, ‘there are surprising forces in it’. And I sometimes missed those in your later work.
I look back on your visit with great pleasure, and I don’t doubt that the more you come here the more the scenery will attract you. Since you left I’ve been working on a Water mill — the one I asked about in that little inn at the station, where we sat talking with that man whom I told you seemed to suffer from a chronic shortage of small change in his pocket. It’s the same sort of thing as the two other water mills that we visited together, but with two red roofs, and which one views square on from the front — with poplars around it. Will be magnificent in the autumn.
Glad you sent off the books.
Perhaps my brother Theo will come briefly at Whitsun, although not for longer and only if he sees a chance of getting some time off — he’ll be pleased, as we all are, that you’ve received an award.
Adieu — more soon, believe me, with a handshake