Japonisme was a French term used to describe a variety of European borrowings from Japanese art. The French generally first grasped the potential of Japanese precedents among painters and printmakers. Collectors and artists alike responded to Japan’s exotic and refined products shortly after the country opened trade ties in 1853. Exhibitions at London’s 1862 International Exhibition and subsequent World Fairs widened interest in its decorative arts.
Interest in Japanese Art
With the opening of trade with Japan following the expedition of the American Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853. The interest in Japanese art in the West, particularly in France, had started to develop. The artist Félix Bracquemond, a friend of the Goncourt brothers, was among the first interpreters of the style.
“Japonisme is the artistic embrace of Japan’s elegance, simplicity, and exquisite craftsmanship, which captivated the Western world, forever leaving an indelible mark on the realms of art, design, and aesthetics.”
A new area of research
The French critic, collector and printmaker Philippe Burty designated a new area of research in 1872: artistic, historical and ethnographic, including decorative objects with Japanese designs (similar to the Chinoiserie of the 18th century), paintings of Japanese scenes and Western paintings, prints and decorative arts inspired by Japanese aesthetics. Japonaiserie, the depiction of Japanese subjects or artefacts in a Western-style, was differentiated by scholars in the 20th century from Japonisme, the more profound influence of Japanese aesthetics on Western art.
1867 Paris’Exposition Universelle
At the 1867 Paris ‘Exposition Universelle,’ the passion for the style was enhanced by the profusion of Japanese prints and goods. Japanese motifs and images were adopted by Japanese exponents and imitated their ceramic techniques. When Théodore Deck pioneered the emaux-en-relief method of enamel glazing in rich, saturated colours in 1874, the porcelain factories adopted the method. The massive facility in Bordeaux, owned by Albert and Charles Viellard, was one of these factories.
The 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle was an international exhibition held in Paris, France. It showcased technological, scientific, and artistic achievements from around the world.
The event featured the construction of the Palais du Trocadéro and included exhibits on art, industry, and inventions. It attracted millions of visitors and promoted cultural exchange and innovation.
The exposition played a significant role in showcasing 19th-century progress and leaving a lasting impact on art and industry.
Many notable artists and designers were inspired by Japanese art and incorporated its elements into their works. Here are some famous Japonisme artists and designers:
- Vincent van Gogh: The Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh was heavily influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, particularly the works of ukiyo-e artists such as Hiroshige and Hokusai. Van Gogh’s use of vibrant colours, flattened perspective, and bold brushwork in his paintings reflects the influence of Japanese art.
- Claude Monet: The French impressionist painter Claude Monet was fascinated by Japanese prints and incorporated their stylized elements into his works. He often depicted Japanese gardens, water lilies, and bridges, capturing the serene and atmospheric qualities of Japanese art.
- James Abbott McNeill Whistler: The American-born artist James McNeill Whistler was known for his harmonious and refined compositions. He was influenced by Japanese art and aesthetics, incorporating delicate lines, asymmetry, and muted colour palettes into his paintings, most notably in his series of “Harmony in Grey and Green” portraits.
- Henri Toulouse-Lautrec: The French painter and printmaker Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was captivated by Japanese woodblock prints, especially their bold colours and simplified forms. His posters and prints often showcased the influence of Japanese art, particularly in his depictions of nightlife and entertainment scenes in Paris.
- Édouard Manet: The French painter Édouard Manet was among the first artists in Europe to collect Japanese woodblock prints. The flatness of Japanese compositions and the use of negative space had a profound impact on Manet’s work, influencing his style and subject matter.
- Louis Comfort Tiffany: The American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany was renowned for his work in stained glass. He incorporated Japanese motifs, such as cherry blossoms and dragons, into his designs, creating intricate and colourful glass artworks that embraced the principles of Japonisme.
Morgan, A. Japonisme. In The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists. : Oxford University Press.
Design Dictionary and Terms
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