Japonism is the study of Japanese art, which was very influential on Europe during the 19th and 20th century. European artists learned a variety of artistic methods from Japan. For example, using unusual compositions and placing cut-off objects in the foreground of their work. Many well-known artists became passionate about Japonism and implemented the style within their own works, some copying directly from original Japanese art and others using the techniques and symbolism to highlight their interest in the style.
It is thought by many that Japanese art was first introduced to Viennese society by Klimt and the Secessionists through their sixth exhibition, which devoted entirely to its aesthetics. Klimt was an avid collector of East Asian art objects, for example, woodcuts, Noh masks, ceramics, and textile designs. Many of these objects inspired his works and there design principles greatly influenced Klimt’s approach to drawing and became an integral part of his style. In the artworks pictured below, there are many visual similarities between Klimt's portrait and Eizan's. For example a kimono, which is a well-known piece of Japanese clothing, is present within both pieces and is strongly enhanced through the use of colour and detailed backgrounds.
Gustav Klimt, "Portrait of Eugenia Primavesi", 1913-1914 (left). Kikukawa Eizan, "Courtesan of the Ogivia Brothel", 1810-18-15 (right).
Though Ukiyo-e prints were extraordinarily popular with European artists and art lovers alike, Claude Monet had collected an impressive, range of woodblock prints and was greatly inspired by the Japonism art style, subject matter, perspective, and composition. Using distinctively dappled brushstrokes, and characteristically colorful range of tones, which focused on light, the French artist created compositions that captured the essence of the movement, which was influenced through the Japanese art style. The central compositon of Klimts work has been so obviously inspired by Hokusai. While many artists working with paper try to create realistic senses of perspective, those specializing in woodblock prints were less concerned with depth and dimensionality. Instead, they favored strong shapes, graphic designs, and bold lines. This approach can be seen within both pieces, conveying that Klimt has experimented with a different approach to his positioning of objects.
Monet, "The Japanese (the water lily pond)", 1897-1899 (left). Hokusai, "Under Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa", 1823 (right)
Overall, I have found that Japonism and Japanese artists deserve more credit in the part they played in advancing the development of modern art, especially in terms of impressionism, changing the way that artist experimented within their own work and how they presented it to the viewer.
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Second year Illustration student at Cumbria University.