What influence did the Great Wave off Kanagawa have on Van Gogh?
On September. 8, 1888, Van Gogh a letter to his brother Theo. In that letter, he said the following about a piece of ukiyo-e. “These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.” The work is Katsushika Hokusai‘s representative work, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa“, one of the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series.
Ukiyo-e had a great influence on European artists of the time and became a major trend called Japonism, which included many works by Hokusai. Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German doctor working for the Dutch East India Company, met Hokusai in the early 19th century while trading in Dejima, Nagasaki, and purchased several of his works. In the mid-19th century, Hokusai’s “Great Wave” began to sweep across Europe as Japanese ports were opened to trade with various Western nations.
Although “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” was not in Van Gogh’s Hokusai collection, he appreciated it and probably influenced one of his greatest works, “Starry Moonlit Night.”