Over the years I’ve looked at lots of art. I always enjoy what I see, but from time to time an exhibit sets my heart to racing. So it was with Japan Inspiration at Kunsthaus in Zurich because it opened my eyes to a new way of seeing.
Japonisme was an unfamiliar term to me. What it refers to is the period from 1860 to 1910 when Japan, after 200 years of isolation, opened to the world. The aesthetic and formal language of Japan and Japanese influences inspired the creativity of many European artists, and this exhibit shows how they impacted Gauguin, Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists. I was astonished to see the links between these artists and their Japanese counterparts. Thankfully, I was able to take photos so you, too, can see the connection.
Mary Cassatt is one of my favorites, and her work depicting mother and child always steals my heart.
How surprising it was to see a similar Japanese piece, the likes of which are said to have inspired Cassatt’s future work.Japanese art often depicted women doing everyday things,
thus women doing the ordinary became subject for many favorite paintings by Degas.
and a series of Picasso prints are equally as graphic.
Repeating landscapes was a habit of many Japanese artists and likely provide explanation for Cezanne’s recurring renderings of Mount Sainte Victoire.
Studying Japanese masters inspired Monet’s in-depth contemplation of nature. His water lily paintings are among his most familiar, but did you know the last years of his life were spent focusing totally on them and the reflective surface of his pond?
Japanese objects, such as the instrument in this Toulouse Lautrec painting, began appearing in Impressionist work. I don’t know about you, but I never gave thought to the source of such images.
While I would not object to owning a piece by any one of the Impressionist masters, my preference would be one of Gauguin’s whose work did not escape the Japanese influence.
There is much more than shown, but this is enough to help you see the correlation between Japanese art and the work of many of the Impressionist artists whose paintings we so admire. I hope it will help you identify Japanese influences when you next take a look at an Impressionist exhibit.
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