Le Japon, en veux-tu, en voilà (2) | Vu du Nord

Almond blossoms. 1890

Just a few more days to see “Van Gogh and Japan” (But you can always buy the catalogue, which I found very interesting – and beautiful, of course). Personally, I knew a few of Van Gogh’s paintings that were clearly inspired by Japanese paintings or prints. But I never realised he was that much in awe of Japanese art – like everyone else in his days, his fellow artists (Whistler, Monet, Degas, Rodin) not in the last place. And little did they know that during the 19th century Japan had opened up to the world , and Japanese artists had already been inspired by European painters (and painting material)…

Anyhow, in the late 19th century, Europe was fascinated by Japan, and Paris

Prints, Japanese and others, like they were on Van Gogh’s studio wall.

was the centre of the Japanese art market. Van Gogh read about this art in French magazines and books, and seems to have really discovered and fallen in love with Japanese art during his stay in Antwerp, from where he moved to Paris in 1886. He started collecting Japanese prints, and aspired to making “flat paintings”, characterised by the (absence of) perspective that was considered typical Japanese. ‘Japanese’ are also his vivid colours, strong contour lines, hatchings, and also themes like flowers or rain.

Van Gogh, La berçeuse (Augustine Roulin), 1889, Art Institute of Chicago

Most of all, he was in search of what he called “Japanese light”, which he eventually found in Provence. “I keep telling myself, here I am in Japan”, he wrote to his brother. “And as a consequence, I have only to open my eyes and paint what I see right in front of me.” We are grateful he did. Aren’t we? Van Gogh Museum​, till 24 June 2018.

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Le Japon, en veux-tu, en voilà (2) | Vu du Nord


L’Ecole d’Amsterdam

Come and have a look at this particular architecture. Notice those ornaments and curbs, those particular windows and roofs (tiles seem to be all over the place). It is what they call the Amsterdam School (1910 – 1930). And when you enter one of these buildings, ideally you would see interiors that are as extraordinary as the outside: sculpted furniture, atained glass lamps, carpets with geometrical designs… The furniture of the Amsterdam School is much less known than the architecture – perhaps because it is inside. Now, there is a wonderful, big exhibition of this furniture, often created by the same architects that built the houses, hotels, villas and other constructions. Read my blog about it (in French), in Vu du Nord. You may start right here:

Venez voir cette architecture particulière qu’on décrit comme l’Ecole d’Amsterdam, centenaire cette année (2016) et concentrée effectivement à Amsterdam (bien qu’on la trouve aussi ailleurs). Et venez voir, au Stedelijk Museum d’Amsterdam, la grande et belle exposition sur le mobilier – meubles, lampes, pendules, papiers peints, vitraux – qui fait partie de cette même école, et créé souvent par les mêmes architectes, et par quelques autres. L’Ecole d’Amsterdam n’a pas vécu très longtemps: dix, quinze années peut-être. Mais elle a laissé une marque indélébile, à la fois parce qu’elle est si typique et si reconnaissable et parce qu’elle allait de pair avec une idéologie ‘de gauche’, qui aspirait à de meilleurs logements pour les ouvriers, à les ‘élever’ en mettant des oeuvres d’art à portée de leur main: dans les rues, incorporées dans les bâtiments, partout. Cet héritage a été ignoré, négligé pendant plusieurs décennies, pour être redécouvert dans les années 1970. Maintenant, ce sont des visiteurs venus du monde entier qui viennent admirer les oeuvres laissées par l’Ecole d’Amsterdam.

Source: L’Ecole d’Amsterdam


La seconde guerre mondiale, vue d’aujourd’hui/ World War Today

We probably all know at least one of these photos by Roger Cremers, we’ve seen it before – it was part of a series awarded a First Prize by WorldPressPhoto in 2009, it was shown around the globe. These tourists at Auschwitz make us smile – a wry smile, yet a smile: ‘stupid tourists.. So Auschwitz has become a tourist attraction?’- but they also put us ill at ease. And this is the case with all the photos Roger Cremers assembled into a book and an exhibition (World War Today; Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam), showing commemorations as well as tourists as well as enactments at well-known WWII sites: concentration camps (the ‘touristy’ Auschwitz and the ‘hidden’ Sobibor), the beaches in Normandy where the D-Day landings took place, other battlefields (like the steppes around Stalingrad, where voluntary workers exhume a few corpses of the thousands of soldiers who were killed during the battle of Stalingrad) – but also Berchtesgades, Hitler’s eagle’s nest in the Austrian Alps, and meetings of former SS-members… All these intriguing photos finally ask us one question. Where do I stand?

Read my blog about this (in French):

Comment vivons-nous la Seconde Guerre Mondiale aujourd’hui? Plus de soixante-dix ans après la Libération, comment regardons-nous notre passé? Roger Cremers a photographié des touristes à Auschwitz, des acteurs rejouant des scènes de la Libération, des commémorations en Normandie, des bénévoles qui retrouvent, identifient et réenterrent des combattants morts pour la Russie à Stalingrad… Une belle exposition au Musée de la Résistance d’Amsterdam (Verzetsmuseum), qui fait réfléchir, et qui fait naître plus de questions que de réponses. 9200000049273094

Source: La seconde guerre mondiale, vue d’aujourd’hui