Japonism 1854 – 1900

French term used to describe a range of European borrowings from Japanese art It was coined in 1872 by the French critic, collector and printmaker Philippe Burty ‘to designate a new field of study—artistic, historic and ethnographic’, encompassing decorative objects with Japanese designs (similar to 18th-century Chinoiserie), paintings of scenes set in Japan, and Western paintings, prints and decorative arts influenced by Japanese aesthetics Scholars in the 20th century have distinguished japonaiserie, the depiction of Japanese subjects or objects in a Western style, from Japonisme, the more profound influence of Japanese aesthetics on Western art

First described by French art critic and collector, Philippe Burty in 1872, Japonism, from the French Japonisme, is the study of Japanese art and artistic talent Japonism affected fine arts, sculpture, architecture, performing arts and decorative arts throughout Western culture The term is used particularly to refer to Japanese influence on European art, especially in impressionism

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From the 1860s, ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, became a source of inspiration for many Western artists Ukiyo-e began as a Japanese painting school developed in the 17th century Ukiyo-e woodblock prints were created to fit a demand for inexpensive, souvenir images Although the prints were inexpensive, they were innovative and technical which gave each one value These prints were rarely created with a single patron in mind, rather they were created for the commercial market in Japan Although a percentage of prints were brought to the West through Dutch trade merchants, it was not until the 1860s when ukiyo-e prints gained popularity in Europe Western artists were intrigued by the original use of color and composition Ukiyo-e prints featured dramatic foreshortening and asymmetrical compositions

Ukiyo-e was one of the main Japanese influences on Western art Western artists were attracted to the colorful backgrounds, realistic interior and exterior scenes, and idealized figures Emphasis was placed on diagonals, perspective, and asymmetry in ukiyo-e, all of which can be seen in the Western artists who adapted this style It is necessary to study each artist as an individual who made unique innovations

The impressionist painter Claude Monet modeled parts of his garden in Giverny after Japanese elements, such as the bridge over the lily pond, which he painted numerous times By detailing just on a few select points such as the bridge or the lilies, he was influenced by traditional Japanese visual methods found in ukiyo-e prints, of which he had a large collection He also planted a large number of native Japanese species to give it a more exotic feeling

During the Edo period (1639-1858), Japan was in a period of seclusion and only one International port remained active Tokugawa Iemitsu, ordered that an island, Deshima, be built off the shores of Nagasaki from which Japan could receive imports The Dutch were the only country able to engage in trade with the Japanese, however, this small amount of contact still allowed for Japanese art to influence the West Every year the Dutch arrived in Japan with fleets of ships filled with Western goods for trade In the cargoes arrived many Dutch treatises on painting and a number of Dutch prints Shiba Kōkan (1747-1818) was one of the notable Japanese artists that studied the Dutch imports Kōkan created one of the first etchings in Japan which was a technique he had learned from one of the imported treatises Kōkan would combine the technique of linear perspective, which he learned from a treatise, with his own ukiyo-e styled paintings

Japonism began as a craze for collecting Japanese art, particularly ukiyo-e Some of the first samples of ukiyo-e were to be seen in Paris In about 1856 the French artist Félix Bracquemond first came across a copy of the sketch book Hokusai Manga at the workshop of his printer, Auguste Delâtre The sketchbook had arrived in Delâtre’s workshop shortly after Japanese ports had opened to the global economy in 1854; therefore, Japanese artwork had not yet gained popularity in the West In the years following this discovery, there was an increase of interest in Japanese prints They were sold in curiosity shops, tea warehouses, and larger shops Shops such as La Porte Chinoise specialized in the sale of Japanese and Chinese imports La Porte Chinoise, in particular, attracted artists James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas who drew inspiration from the prints