Learning from the portraits
Vincent van Gogh had a large number of portraits of actors in his collection – approximately 90 in total. It is likely that he primarily looked to the style of these portraits for inspiration. Van Gogh himself aspired to become a painter of expressive portraits, and the Japanese prints of actors served as a fine example.
By studying works by artists including Kunichika, Van Gogh learned how to fill up the canvas with his figures. Just like the Japanese master, Van Gogh used heavy outlines and positioned his subjects against a richly-decorated, flat background, as you can see in Portrait of Père Tanguy.