“Aspects of Japonisme”: Weisberg on Japonisme

Weisberg, Gabriel P. “Aspects of Japonisme
The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Apr., 1975, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Apr., 1975), pp. 120-130

“Aspects of Japonism” is Gabriel P. Weisberg’s take on Japonism, especially its meaning and influence on the Western world. Japonism represented a new era of integration of Japanese culture and art into the Western art world.

The 1867 Exposition Universelle is also talked about, credited to have used its exhibits to effectively spread the craze to more critics and artists/collectors, reaching an even bigger audience that would be able to appreciate the work. Of course, much of the appreciation was tied with 19th century romanticism, especially with the obsession of many people with exotic cultures and objects, and far off lands and things “Oriental”.

An example Weisberg uses for the common “copying” done during the craze is how Rousseau-Bracquemond used the Lobster print and the eggplant motif from print #2 from Hiroshige’s Fish Series. This example shows the early type of “borrowing”, later done without direct copying. Weisberg also talks about Bracquemond most likely teaching others like Manet about print techniques and viewpoints, who later tries to recreate the random placement that was seen in Hiroshige’s artworks.

However, Weisberg also talks about the downsides of the craze and rapid imports into France. The fact that the prints entered France in a rapid and unorganized fashion meant the original context of the prints were lost, including companion and series prints that were meant to be viewed together and potentially with other context/background.
Combining this with the fact that artists and artisans continued the craze in the market for Japanese prints certainly reinforces the idea of Japanese prints being sought after for their novelty and exoticism, without any cultural consideration or context, and without credit to the original creators or their intentions. For many of the collectors, it seems as though these were exotic and trendy pieces, with great ignorance of the creators and the culture and depth behind them.

Author: Louis Benioff

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