“Aspects of Japonisme”: A Historical Analysis of Japonisme in the Late 19th Century

Weisberg, Gabriel P. “Aspects of Japonisme.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 62, no. 4 (1975): 120–30. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25152585.

“Aspects of Japonisme” by Gabriel Weisberg focuses on the history of Japonisme and its influence on the works of major artists in the late 19th century. Written in 1975, Weisberg offers a point of view from a more historical period. He discusses how creating works at the beginning of the Japonisme period (the period’s crescendo was in the 1860s) contained aspects that were first borrowed directly from Japanese models, shifted away from exact copying, but then still contained stereotypes and compositional arrangements. He focuses on direct examples of specific works by notable artists and compared them to the Japanese counterpart that they drew inspiration from. For example, he talks about Bracquemond’s reliance on Japanese print albums for designs that he then freely painted on ceramics. He also writes about themes of art and their connection to Japan, specifically the 19th-century creation of images of women in Japanese clothing to “recreate modish aspects of the new craze which even affected women’s clothing”, therefore displaying how influential this movement was.

Focusing on the movement in general, it is important to note that Weisberg adds that many prints entered France in a “haphazard fashion”, leading to the availability of single prints taken out of their original context without companion scenes, as well as the fact that there was a gradual movement away from exact copying.

Weisberg makes a strong visual analysis, but the reading is more focused on themes of Japonisme and the history of it over specific aspects of individual works, although he does touch on them with a few pieces, and focuses on direct relationships and similarities between a Japanese work and a Japonisme work.

I agree with the author’s points about the direct influence of Japanese art on major artists in the late 19th century, and I like that he focused on the aspect of Japonisme that it isn’t all a glamorous movement, there was the involvement of many Japanese stereotypes in Japonisme art as well as direct copying of Japanese works.

Author: Rachel Schultze

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