flowers and birds (kachōga)
Japanese printmakers enjoyed zooming in on smaller subjects that nature had to offer, such as flowers and birds. They often combined the two, sometimes even adding a short poem.
In the capable hands of artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige, these depictions grew into a popular, independent genre. People in Japan used the decorative prints to brighten up their interiors, sticking them to their walls or folding screens.
Vincent van Gogh also decorated his walls with these prints. A striking number of woodcuts featuring flowers and birds from his collection have drawing pin holes in the corners.
He often selected the crépons , brightly-coloured prints that were crinkled like crêpe paper after being printed. Thanks to their decorative qualities, crépon prints were frequently exported to the West.
Van Gogh was inspired by the prints with flowers and birds. He could identify with the attention Japanese artists paid to smaller details.
In the garden of the institution in Saint-Rémy, he painted several small works of flowers and butterflies. He covered the entire picture plane and cropped the composition abruptly at the edges of the canvas. This focus on nature offered him solace in difficult times.