Scott AbelWhistler and Van Gogh in JaponismePaintings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Vincent Van Gogh represent thetwo different ideas that reflected Japonisme in nineteenth century Europe and America.James Whistler demonstrates his association with Japan and the Aesthetic Movement inhis painting,
Caprice in Purple and Gold, No. 2: The Golden Screen
. Meanwhile,Vincent Van Gogh depicts Japan as a primitive utopian society and demonstrates this inhis painting,
Le Père Tanguy.
Not only do these paintings differ in subject matter, butalso in their symbolism.The subject of Whistler’s 1864 painting,
Caprice in Purple and Gold, No. 2: TheGolden Screen
, is a woman dressed in a kimono looking at Japanese prints made byHiroshige. The painting was of an Irish model named Jo Heffernan who was alsoWhistler’s mistress. Jo is wearing a lot of makeup to make her face look very pale andshe is wearing a purple, orange, and white kimono with a lot of flowers on it. The focal point of the painting is the orange part of her kimono. The kimono has a great deal of contrast between the purple and white on it. She is looking at a series of landscape printsknown as
Famous Views in the Sixty-odd Provinces
made by Hiroshige. In front of themodel, there are flowers, porcelain, and a black and brown box. Jo is sitting on a browncarpet and behind her is a golden Japanese screen depicting scenes from the Japanesenovel,
Tale of Genji
. The picture has a great amount of detail in it. The palette has a lotof white, gold, and purple in it. The composition of the painting allows for the subjectand the background to appear farther away from each other.