Japonisme: The Japanese Influence on Western Art Since 1858
By Siegfried Wichmann
Japan’s influence on Western art was almost as sudden and explosive as the West’s influence on Japanese life. Following Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan’s door to the outside world in 1858, a wealth of visual knowledge from the outstanding Japanese traditions of ceramics, metalwork, architecture, printmaking, and painting entered the West electrifying new ideas of composition, colour, and design with it.
To see how these ideas have influenced European artists, compare a famous painting by Monet, Degas, Whistler, or van Gogh, a Toulouse-Lautrec print, an Art Nouveau glass vase, or a lacquered hair comb with its Japanese source. The influence isn’t only superficial: Japanese symbolism underpins the use of decorative motifs in European Symbolism and Art Nouveau, and the Zen concept of spontaneity is the ultimate root of both Art Nouveau’s seemingly capricious shapes and Abstract Expressionism’s creation of an abstract “calligraphy.”
The stunning illustrations are accompanied by a text by Siegfried Wichmann, an acknowledged expert on Japonisme, that organises a wealth of detail and opens up new lines of enquiry. There are 1,105 illustrations in total, with 243 of them in colour.
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