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Tag: Japonisme

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. 

When cultures meet, stuff happens

The Artdog Image of Interest 

This week’s Image of Interest is The Japanese Parisian, painted by the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens in 1872. It was painted during a time period when Europe had begun trading with a newly-opened Japan (the Meiji Era), and many European artists, intellectuals and elites were seized with a deep fascination with Japanese art and culture.

Japonisme, as this fascination was called, influenced many aspects of European culture and arts. It inspired and revolutionized the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, including Monet, Degas, Van GoghGaugin, and Whistler, as well as the Art Nouveau movement.

The allure of the exotic, the fascination with other cultures and their arts, is a human reaction we’ve seen in many times and places. But when is it a healthy cultural exchange, and when is it cultural appropriation?

I plan to spend some time this month looking at that and related questions, as we move toward Halloween, the Days of the Dead, and all the opportunities to explore other cultures–or cross inappropriate lines–that abound at this time of year.

OUR IMAGE: Many thanks to Mimi Matthews for a very nice image of one of Alfred Stevens’s more famous paintings.

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