The Van Gogh Exhibit

by Stefan Chiarantano, Jan 29, 2006 | Destinations: Japan / Tokyo

The Van Gogh exhibit in Tokyo was a hit. Thousands of Tokyo residents on a daily basis were flocking to see the retrospective of his work. The Japanese adore him and his artwork is found in the permanent collections of many Japanese museums. We were also ardent fans.

Lucky me was going to see the exhibit in the charming company of a very beautiful woman. I met up with my companion in front of the National Museum of Art. Even though we faced the daunting task of getting in line, actually, getting in two line-ups, one to buy our tickets and the other to get into the museum, we didn't have to wait long to get in. Things in Japan run very smoothly and within minutes of arriving we had purchased our tickets and were already making our way into the museum.

The Japanese and I have something in common. It's Western art. We both love it. The exhibit explores the influence Japanese art, in particular ukiyo-e art, had on Van Gogh and his work. He deeply treasured his ukiyo-e prints and painted them in his works. He also painted a picture of a professional Japanese woman, which was on display. The Japanese were so taken with his work. They lingered before his works solemnly gazing at his paintings whispering words of appreciation to their friends and loved ones.

I was particularly fascinated by his self-portraits; there were two versions on display, which was juxtaposed with the one done by Gaugain. It was evident that he was a soul torn apart by the throes of mental illness and was a deeply conflicted individual. My interest in Van Gogh had increased ten fold. I left with a question. How was he able to paint when gripped by the ravishes of mental illness?

Tokyo is the place to see art. It is filled with dozens and dozens of museums that can occupy any museumgoer for months on end! It has become one of my favourite cities in the world!

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