Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Fujieda, c. 1845
No. 23 from "Fifty-three stations of the Tôkaidô"

Not long after merchant ships visited in the mid-ninteenth century, Emperor Meiji began the modernization of Japan by opening his country to international trade. Some of the Japanese exports were prints and paintings from the Ukiyo-e or the "floating world" a style of art characterized by flat areas of bold color with little perspective and shadow.

Once these paintings and prints were seen in Europe, the craze of Japonism lit style like wildfire and the look of Western painting was forever changed.

Easily recognizable influence of the Ukiyo-e on the Continent is seen in the work of Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne (amongst others) and then in American painters like William Merrit Chase. Naturally, this influence crept into artists' landscape paintings in obvious and more subtle ways (although I can't think of one Cassatt landscape and Toulouse-Lautrec considered landscape merely an accessory to the human form). By the time the European and American artists demonstrated influence by the Ukiyo-e in their landscapes, they had incorporated the principles of the floating world into the development of their own styles.

But Patricia Flynn at the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute explains the influence better and more thoroughly in her enlightening article Visions of People: The Influences of Japanese Prints-Ukiyo-e Upon Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century French Art.

Hans Olof Johansson in Sweden created a remarkably comprehensive site on Ukiyo-e including an extensive list of links.

J. Noel Chiappa at the MIT Advanced Network Architecture Group has assembled a glossary of terms for different aspects of Japanese prints including supplemental information all of which is very helpful in understanding type, size, makeup and historic context of the work.

Read my other posts on the history of Landscape Painting.

See my paintings at Landscape into Art.

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