Issue 20 : Autumn 2005
When the Gallery launched a renewed appeal in February for the section of Japanese print stolen from its Bloomsbury premises in 1981 it was without much confidence of success. Although the print carried an inscription testifying to its Van Gogh provenance and appears in the background of the artist’s celebrated Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, the likelihood of it being identified and returned to the Gallery seemed remote.
In addition to the Courtauld’s version, only two other impressions of this exceedingly rare print were known, both in the possession of Professor Shigeru Oikawa of Tokyo, Japan. Professor Oikawa, an expert in the links between the Post-Impressionists and Japan, learned of the Courtauld’s appeal and approached the Gallery through Mr Israel Goldman. In an extraordinary act of generosity Professor Oikawa has now presented the Courtauld with one of his two impressions. Beautifully mounted on an original handscroll, the print allows us once again to fully appreciate the manner in which van Gogh used and adapted the original composition for his celebrated self-portrait. More broadly, the juxtaposition of the two works illustrates with remarkable immediacy the inspirational influence of Japanese art on Van Gogh. Professor Oikawa’s generous gift brings our appeal to an entirely unexpected but happy conclusion.
Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen