Van Gogh and Japan: the prints that shaped the artist

In February 1888, Vincent van Gogh left Paris, where he had been living for a couple of years, and headed for the city of Arles in Provence, in southern France. Exhausted by his time in the metropolis, and eager to recover some self-composure, he was seeking a simpler life that, he hoped, would revitalise both himself and his art. He was also keen to establish a community of artists, and felt excited by the possibilities.

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Curiously, in his elation, he viewed his new surroundings through the prism of a faraway country: Japan. In a letter written later that year to the painter Paul Gauguin, who would subsequently join him in Arles, Van Gogh recalled looking out of the window during his train journey from Paris to Provence “to

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