It wasn’t until the 19th century that landscapes became an important genre in Japanese printmaking. Japanese people travelled more extensively in their own country, heightening their interest in their surroundings.
The exceptional series of prints by Hokusai (from 1829) and Hiroshige (from 1832) placed Japanese landscapes firmly on the map. With the new Prussian blue pigment, Japanese artists finally had an exquisite colour to use for the sea and sky.
The weather and the seasons
Hiroshige designed thousands of landscape prints, but each landscape was unique.
He broke through the monotony of the landscape by depicting it in different seasons and weather conditions, such as spring or autumn, and rain or snow.
Van Gogh and the Japanese landscape
Van Gogh admired the Japanese landscapes in his collection of prints. He was particularly fascinated by the dozens of landscape prints by Hiroshige. He had a heavily romanticised image of Japanese artists, and fantasised about how they worked in isolation, at one with nature.
In Van Gogh’s letters, we read how he saw the French countryside with a ‘Japanese eye’. He selected Japanese motifs for his paintings and drawings, such as blossom, rain and gnarled trees.