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How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists

When Japan opened its port to international trade in the 1850s and emerged from centuries of self-imposed isolation, Japanese prints, albums and objects arrived in Europe and North America in unprecedented quantities. In the frenzy of collecting and admiration that followed, Japanese art caught the eye of designers and artists seeking fresh solutions to artistic problems. This video explores the shared artistic devices in Japanese and Western artworks of the time. Created by Asian Art Museum.

Video transcript

the introduction of Japanese aesthetics in the 19th century radically transformed the practices and techniques of Western artists in the 1850s Western powers compelled Japan to open to international trade following more than two centuries of self-imposed isolation thereafter Japan sent delegates to the west to shape its image abroad and ship porcelains bronzes and other works of art for display at World's Fairs Western artists seeking alternatives to the dominant artistic styles of the time took fresh inspiration from Japanese art imports from the region sparked a popular fashion for things Japanese a phenomenon dubbed Japanese ma by French writers the most direct impact was in the decorative arts where Japanese designs were often copied or imaginatively recombined in this French ink stand the artist added a depiction of Japan's Mount Fuji in addition to other motifs here japanese-style designs of butterflies and flowers were used to adorn a European metal tea set many Western painters incorporated Japanese art and clothing in their works as fashionable props such as this folding screen and this silk kimono American artist Charles Carroll Coleman included a Japanese bronze vase and patterned silk fabric into this still life painting painting formats also changed in response to Japanese models here Coleman used the narrow vertical format of a Japanese hanging scroll instead of the shading and realistic modeling typical of traditional Western paintings and prints Japanese prints relied on solid areas of color and pattern as in this print by cuckoo Kawa ace on a similar flattening effect can be seen in this work by Mary Cassatt patterns of rhythmically arranged feathers or petals in Japanese prints had an impact on print design in Europe and North America as well repeated motifs like the trees in this print by Katsushika Hokusai inspired similar experiments by western painters boot Ogawa Hiroshige a radically enlarged compositional elements pressing them flat against the picture plane here a large red lantern and gatepost from a view into space poster designers in France and America use similar techniques to create bold graphic emblems of modern urban life the bright colors strong diagonals in a symmetry of Japanese prints were among the other elements admired in the West in fact the borrowing flowed both ways Japanese artists also had a history of experimenting with Western practices looking east examines how motifs and techniques from Japan sparked new creative expression in the West as you explore the galleries look for the shared artistic devices in the Japanese and Western artworks on view you you