At the 1862 International Exhibition in London, Sir Rutherford Alcock, a former consul general in Japan and an early collector of Japanese material, mounted a Japanese exhibition which included his personal collection. This was the first time a large audience had the opportunity to see the impressive range of work by Japanese artists, and it would begin a rage for all things Japanese in Europe. Just five years later, Japan sent their first official delegation to the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where artists including Louis Comfort Tiffany first viewed their nation’s impressive array of work in bronze, lacquer, scroll painting, ceramic, and printmaking.
Félix Bracquemond is often credited with inventing the term “Japonisme.” He was certainly among the first French artists to incorporate its feeling and style into his own work. Bracquemond borrowed motifs from Hokusai’s manga for his prints and ceramics, including his Japanese-inspired porcelains designed for the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Bracquemond also introduced many fellow artists, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to Japanese art, an enthusiasm that swept Europe throughout the following decade.
Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, Japonisme influenced everything from furniture to poster design. Referring to the influence of Japanese art at the 1878 Paris International, art historian Martin Eidelberg wrote, “Japonisme did not become the artistic dead end that critics . . . were fearful of. Rather, it established vital principles and new paths of exploration. Japonisme was ultimately a flexible concept that changed in accord with the sensibilities and needs of each generation.”
This exhibition follows this trajectory, reiterating the continued impact of Japanese art and examining its long-term impact, in conjunction with JapanAmerica: Points of Contact, 1876 - 1970.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.