Japonisme: A Pictorial Revolution Dissemination and Cross-Fertilization

“Japonisme: A Pictorial Revolution Dissemination
And Cross-Fertilization”
Tue, Mar 24, 3pm and 5pm
Studio 64
64 San Jorge, Colonia San Antonio
300 pesos per person

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By Béa Aaronson, PhD

What is Japonisme? It is a French term that was first used by Jules Claretie in his book L’Art Francais, 1872. It refers to the influence of Japanese art on Western art. Influence? I would rather say “frenzy” or “upheaval.” The artists of the Far East had a completely different aesthetic approach, which not only marked a break with Western painting convention but also enthralled Western artists and energized them to change the face of Western art forever. With its exquisite palette of soft, delicious or intense pure colors, new perspectives, new compositions, light without shadows—or very few—which created flatness, with its new techniques this great wave of Japanese artistic energy swept through Europe in the 1880s and 1890s.

After a brief yet substantial Japanese historical background, and an introduction to the Japanese art of Manga, Shunga, Ukiyo-e, and Nishiki-e, through the works of Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro (to name but a few), we shall look closely at all sorts of applied arts, ceramics, glassware, textiles, wall paper, book covers, fonts, furniture, and jewelry which definitely exude a Japanese influence of the organic Art Nouveau flavor! And then, of course, we shall look at the works of Manet, Degas, Caillebotte, Cézanne, Mary Cassatt, Tissot, Whistler, Vuillard, Bonnard, Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Monet. One way or another, they all imbibed the same sources of Japanese art. The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist revolutions would not have taken place without the Japanese creative energy.

But what are we talking about when we speak of Japanese creative energy? Subject matters? Motifs? Style? A philosophy? There is an important difference to establish between Japonisme and Exoticism. To paint a woman dressed in a kimono but still using an occidental style is exotic for some, Japoniste for others. Speaking of Japonisme, some will think of the ornamental richness, the decorative inventiveness, the intensity of pure colors, while others will focus on the simplicity, the purity, the rejection of décor, and the peaceful calm and sense of silence. All of this emanates from Japanese art. Some will think of colors, others of lines. Maybe we should speak of Japonismeswith an “S”to better honor the plurality of its occidental perception and appropriations. I will share with you the different degrees of this artistic encounter. With numerous illustrations, you will be able to savor this feast of dissemination and cross-fertilization. This is one of the better facets of our human adventure!