A tale of Hokusai and Cézanne

This week’s Artdog Images of Interest: 

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a painting from the age of Japonisme in Europe. Today I’d like to offer an example of how the Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints that arrived in Europe during the Meiji Era changed European art, and inspired the aesthetic that created “modern” art. 

Tokaido Hodogaya, one of the Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji, by Katsushika Hokusai, shows us a glimpse of the ukiyo-e prints that took Europe by storm in the latter half of the 19th Century.

Many people in Europe, and especially such painters as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, James A. McNeill Whistler, and Paul Cézanne amassed large collections of Japanese prints. Monet had a whole living room full. Van Gogh didn’t have many physical possessions, but he did have a cherished collection of ukiyo-e prints.The radically different way in which the Japanese artists viewed space, color, and perspective influenced these artists deeply–some more directly than others.

Paul Cézanne painted The Chestnut Trees of Jas de Bouffan in Winter, a view that included Mont Ste. Victoire, one of his favorite subjects, as viewed from his home. Hokusai’s influence is hard to miss.

Paul Cézanne was such an ardent admirer of two print series, each titled Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji–one created by Katsushika Hokusai, and the other by his younger rival Ando Hiroshige–that he created his own series of thirty-six paintings of Mont Ste. Victoire, a distinctive mountain near Aix-en-Provence, visible from Cézanne’s home and studio at Bastide du Jas de Bouffan.

There was no question about cultural appropriation in Cézanne’s day. Europeans considered themselves and their culture to be the apex of human civilization. They felt free to draw upon any source they wished, and never questioned whether they had a right to do so. I am not sure that Cézanne’s painting count as “appropriation” per se, though it’s easy to detect a touch of “the sincerest form of flattery.” Similarities are also easy to see in others he painted, whose compositions bear a striking resemblance to certain prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige–I may share them at some point in the future.

IMAGES: I found this great image of Hokusai’s Tokaido Hodogaya through the Ukiyo-e Search website. Many thanks to the British website Poster Lounge for the photo of Cézanne’s Les Marroniers du Jas de Bouffan en hiver. 

Published by

jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

Leave a Reply