From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Japonism, or Japonisme, the original French term, which is also used in English, is a term for the influence of the arts of Japan on those of the West. The word was first used by Jules Claretie in his book L'Art Francais en 1872 published in that year. Works arising from the direct transfer of principles of Japanese art on Western, especially by French artists, are called japonesque.
From the 1860s, ukiyo-e, Japanese wood-block prints, became a source of inspiration for many European impressionist painters in France and the rest of the West, and eventually for Art Nouveau and Cubism Artists were especially affected by the lack of perspective and shadow, the flat areas of strong colour, the compositional freedom in placing the subject off-centre, with mostly low diagonal axes to the background.
Artists and movements
Japanese artists who had a great influence included Utamaro and Hokusai. Curiously, while Japanese art was becoming popular in Europe, at the same time, the bunmeikaika (文明開化, "Westernization") led to a loss in prestige for the prints in Japan.
Artists who were influenced by Japanese art include Manet, Pierre Bonnard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, Degas, Renoir, James McNeill Whistler (Rose and silver: La princesse du pays de porcelaine, 1863-64), Monet, van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gaugin, and Klimt. Some artists, such as Georges Ferdinand Bigot, even moved to Japan because of their fascination with Japanese art.
Although works in all media were influenced, printmaking was not surprisingly particularly affected, although lithography, not woodcut, was the most popular medium. The prints and posters of Toulouse-Lautrec can hardly be imagined without the Japanese influence. Not until Félix Vallotton and Paul Gauguin was woodcut itself much used for japonesque works, and then mostly in black and white.
Whistler was important in introducing England to Japanese art. Paris was the acknowledged center of all things Japanese and Whistler acquired a good collection during his years there.
Several of van Goghs's paintings imitate ukiyo-e in style and in motif. For example, Le Père Tanguy, the portrait of the proprietor of an art supply shop, shows six different ukiyo-e in the background scene. He painted The Courtesan in 1887 after finding an ukiyo-e by Kesai Eisen on the cover of the magazine Paris Illustré in 1886. At this time, in Antwerp, he was already collecting Japanese prints.
In terms of music, one can say that Giacomo Puccini used Japonism in Madama Butterfly, and later in Turandot. Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Mikado was inspired by the Japanese exhibition in Knightsbridge, London.
There were many characteristics of Japanese art that influenced these artists. In the Japonisme stage, they were more interested in the asymmetry and irregularity of Japanese art. Japanese art consisted of off centered arrangements with no perspective, light with no shadows and vibrant colors on plane surfaces. These elements were in direct contrast to Roman-Greco art and were embraced by 19th century artists, who believed they freed the Western artistic mentality from academic conventions.
Ukiyo-e, with their curved lines, patterned surfaces and contrasting voids, and flatness of their picture-plane, also inspired Art Nouveau. Some line and curve patterns became graphic clichés that were later found in works of artists from all parts of the world. These forms and flat blocks of color were the precursors to abstract art in modernism.
Japonism also involved the adoption of Japanese elements or style across all the applied arts, from furniture, textiles, jewellery to graphic design.
- Anglo-Japanese style
- Chinoiserie - the collecting of art objects from China
- Orientalism - Western pictures in "oriental" style
- Arabist - "Arab" style
- Occidentalism - for Eastern Views of the West
- Woodblock printing in Japan