The Rich Tapestry of French and Japanese Cultural Exchange

This article was also published in art chooser

Cultural Exchanges are common in Art, but hardly documented when so much of the market dictates. Here, through a series of portraits, you can see how one of the most symbolically important Japanese film-makers of the last century, Akira Kurosawa was influenced heavily by Van Gogh and how in turn Van Gogh was influenced by the simple brush strokes of Japanese Uki-yoe painting.

Van Gogh Self Portrait With Straw Hat

This portrait is alive with the dynamic splendor of his brush strokes. Choosing golds, pinks whites and blues he shows how his red-haired complexion reacted with the blazing Mediterranean sun, that beat down over him daily as he explored the sun-soaked corn for his landscapes.

Van Gogh Gachet

He looks decidedly melancholy and ever the thinker, perhaps pondering the books beside him on the table. The blues and whites depict the signature movement that Akira Kurosawa so evidently admires, as they bring movement to the piece, so alike to film.

Kurosawa Portrait Samurai

Kursowa`s Portraits we mainly characters that he envisaged to be in his films. In this portrait you can see the the white brush strokes here upon green, as oppose to blue in Van Gogh`s portrait however, the effect is similar. It lightens and lifts the energy of the painting bringing movement to another-wise static depiction of these significant men. Here the added effect of white on the beard with those colourful eyes and ruddy complexion arguably suggest a well, worn wisdom and stories contained within him longing to be told.

Kurosawa Portrait

In contrast this portrait with a cat-like face and alert tip-toeing stanz gives the viewer perhaps the impression of a someone hiding. See how agile he seems this time with strong block colours of green on his clothing and only slight, white brush strokes emphasising an altogether quieter and more secretive movement through the space before us.

Van Gogh Portrait Of Pere Tanguy

In this portrait Van Gogh gives an earthy, grounded quality to Pere Tanguy, although this bearded fellow with rugged hat, blue jacket and soil-like trousers seems not dissimilar to the of Van Gogh self portraits however, Pere seems more joyful, less troubled. White`s and light blues here lift the Pere`s presence so that he almost seems like he`s only been sitting there for a few minutes. Around him dance portraits of Japanese women with kimonos and possibly Mount Fuji and the symbolic Sakura (cherry Blossom) that is such a salient symbol of Japanese sentiment. The Japanese influence in Van Gogh`s work is evident and arguably emphasises elegance, complexity in simplicity, suggestion and evocation. This combination of background and Pere Tanguy together, are almost like a tapestry of Van Gogh`s fondest inspirations, rich yet delicate and with his impressionist brush strokes this dynamic comes alive.

Kurosawa Portrait of Old Man

Kurosawa`s choice of colour and strokes are bolder than Van Gogh`s especially in his depiction of this older man evidently worn down by the experiences of life. However, like Van Gogh, Kurosawa makes no shame of adding a surprising colour of greens to a tired face and reds around the eyes, emphasising his almost mad stare into a nothingness; or of harsh memories gone by. The choice of green, pink and blue on a wall that seems to be all around him, blocking him in my opinion give a more hostile environment that he has to exist within, whereas his robes suggest he is inside rather than outside, so perhaps these walls barricading him show the defensive state of his mind.