Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Japonisme and the Impressionists

There I was sitting in Early Modern Art History class in a darkened room admiring large slide-screen images of paintings by artists such as Monet, Pisarro, Degas, Van Gogh and Renoir. I dreamed of the day when I could stand in the presence of these works of art. However, before I could do that I had to pass the class and the required (and dreaded) final essay. This meant I needed to do some serious research.

Online and in the library I found many interesting facts about the major influences on the Early Modern artists. One of those was Japanese woodblock prints known as "ukiyo-e." (This will be a future topic.)

The story goes that when the French were exposed to Japanese art and culture in the 19th century, it became a craze. "Japonisme" was coined by the French for all things Japanese. Among the many Japanese imports, were Japanese art prints which served as wrapping paper for the imported goods.

The principles of ukiyo-e deeply influenced certain young artists who longed for an innovative approach to painting. They wanted to move away from the strict rigor or order required for art at that time. They found ukiyo-e designs exciting in their differences... ...asymmetrical compositions with strong lines of delineation, areas of intricate patterns and large areas of unshaded flat colors.

Some of the better-known artists whose work we admire today studied the techniques and developed a blend of both western and eastern methods. Names of some of the artists include : Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas.

On the two paintings below, can you spot some of the ukiyo-e influence? Care to take a stab at the names of the artists? (Hint: It's definitely not Moe, Curly or Larry.)


  1. OK. I don't imagine it's Ollie or Stan either...:>) Actually, I think that "Early Modern" (not Impressionists?) is one of my favorite art eras. I'm really enjoying these short, interesting art blogs you're doing. Keep it up. Virginia

  2. This is really a guess...Toulouse-Lautrec for the trees and Mary Cassat for the lady. I am really enjoying your blog, don't know how you have time, but don't stop.
    Good job.

  3. I will not even try to venture a guess. However, I'll be thrilled to learn who they are. I also love being exposed to art I've never seen. Thank you!


  4. Ok. For the brave souls who ventured a guess and for those who hesitated to comment for fear of being wrong, the answer is Van Gogh and Mary Cassatt. RA

  5. Thanks for the weekly art lessons. I really enjoy them. Constance

  6. Keep up the cool blog. I especially like this one on Japonisme. Diane