monet and japan : Your Bibliography: Tucker, P. -

Your Bibliography: Tucker, P., 1989. Monet in the '90s: The Series Paintings. New York: Yale University Press.

Widely known as the first modern art movement, Impressionism remains one of the most popular and prevalent forms of art today. While much of the groundbreaking genre was impressively original, Impressionists, like most artists, found inspiration in other forms of art—namely, in Japanese woodblock prints.

Here, we explore the ways in which Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” inspired the Impressionists in terms of content, style, and approach, culminating in a creative and timelessly artistic relationship.

Hokusai’s younger contemporary Hiroshige also chose an elevated viewpoint for his view of Mount Fuji from the dyers’ quarter in the Kanda district of Edo in his series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1856—58. An autumn breeze gently wafts strips of cloth hung out to dry; the intermingling of their various patterns forms a wonderful decorative frame for the mountain. In this series Hiroshige has depicted well-known sites in and around Edo during different seasons. Although Edo was one of the world’s major cities there was ample opportunity for the urban dwellers to enjoy the natural world beside the various tree-lined waterways and in the precincts of temples and shrines, thus maintaining their traditional love of nature. Hiroshige’s evocative rendering of the seasons in this series made it immensely popular. In contrast Hokusai’s appeal was due to his inventive use of design and humour. Hokusai’s interpretation of the same theme from volume two of One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji 1835, allows only a partial view of the mountain through strips of dyed cloth the viewer must complete its shape in the mind’s eye. Similarly we ‘see’ the dyer with a bamboo pole as he lifts a freshly dyed strip of cloth onto its drying rack. Such visual innuendo is an intriguing and humorous feature of the images in the One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji.

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Your Bibliography: McCarthy, H., 1953. Aesthetics East and West. Philosophy East and West, 3(1), p.47.

However, in 1852, Black Ships arrived in the bay of the city of Edo (modern Tokyo) and the U.S. navy forced the shogunate to finally open itself up for trade. For the first time in modern history, foreigners were able to enter the land of the rising sun. And for the first time, the Western world was exposed to the extraordinary paintings from the Rinpa School or to the fine, multicolored woodblock prints in the ukiyo style (engl. “the floating world”). 

Claude Monet, like many other impressionist artists, had a deep interest in Japanese art. Its novelty and sophistication fascinated many Europeans. It was a real revelation since Japan had been completely isolated from the outside world for almost 200 years. During that time – spanning from the 17th to the 19th century – Japanese artists were able to develop a distinct artistic vocabulary that remained wholly untouched by external influences.

The ukiyo-e art movement flowered in the great metropolis of Edo, the capital of Japan and the site of modern-day Tokyo, for more than two and a half centuries from 1600. The images of city life focused on the two infatuations of the urban class — beautiful women and actors of the Kabuki theatre. With the liberalisation of travel restrictions within Japan during the 19th century there was a shift in taste to landscape prints. They showed not only views of famous sites in and around the metropolis, but also views along the great highways that branched out of the capital towards the now more accessible provinces and cities. At this time foreign influences also became more prominent and artists integrated Western realist techniques into the landscapes to create viewpoints that catered to the popular taste for the unusual.

One of Monet’s interests, in addition to painting and gardening, was collecting Japanese art. His home had 231 Japanese woodblocks, Hokusai being prominent among them. Many of Hokusai’s paintings were primarily landscapes. Most would contain figures but the figures were not the focus of the paintings, rather they were an addition to it. A good example of this is Aoigaoka Waterfall in the Eastern Capital.

Perhaps one of the most important monuments that Japan has set for Claude Monet can be found in the Chichu Art Museum – a building that was designed by star architect Tadao Ando and that is placed in the midst of wild nature on a small island in the Seto Inland sea. Soichiro Fukutake – the billionaire heir of Japan’s largest educational publishing house “Benesse” – started to construct the museum in 2004 as part of a philanthropic project which should enable everyone to rethink the relationship between nature and people. Hence, the museum was built mostly underground to avoid affecting the beautiful natural scenery. 

Your Bibliography: Hart, L., 1991. Aesthetic Pluralism and Multicultural Art Education. Studies in Art Education, 32(3), p.145.

Art historians can either play up or play down the influence of ukiyo-e within the art of Claude Monet. Yet, it appears shallow to negate the new concepts emanating from Japan that became a fresh piece of artistic air for many Impressionist artists. Either way, Claude Monet was clearly charmed by the ukiyo-e of individuals like Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro. This isn’t open to debate. After all, not only did Claude Monet buy a vast amount of ukiyo-e art prints but he also created a Japanese garden in his cherished home. Indeed, Claude Monet and many other important Impressionists were clearly inspired by many aspects of ukiyo-e, irrespective of how they utilized this delightful approach to art.

Realistic pictorial methods had been anathema to Japanese traditional taste in painting. However, the creative possibilities of these methods, when they became known, were not ignored by Japanese artists outside the traditional painting schools and gradually became integrated into a native expression. As artists became aware of foreshortening, the decorative possibilities of framing a scene with a dominant foreground was made apparent. The ukzyo-e artist Keisai Eisen collaborated with Hiroshige on a series of views along the Kisokaidö, the highway that connected Edo with the imperial capital Kyoto.

The love affair that Claude Monet found with Japan remains powerful in modern Japan. After all, without a doubt, Monet is one of the most popular international artists on the island state. 

Japonism is word used to describe the study of Japanese art and, more specifically, its influence on European works. While the phenomenon is present in a range of movements—including Art Nouveau and Post-Impressionism—it is most closely associated with Impressionism, as artists like Claude Monet and Edgar Degas were particularly inspired by the subject matter, perspective, and composition of Japanese woodblock prints.

Claude Monet was a very important artist within French Impressionism and despite new artistic movements like Cubism and Fauvism altering the artistic landscape, he remained firmly committed to this art movement. Another major art theme that would shape Claude Monet was Japanese ukiyo-e because he became immediately smitten by the contrasting approach to art. Therefore, Claude Monet utilized these two powerful art movements with the upshot being stunning fresh art pieces that remain etched within the memory.

In 1874, the same year that Impressionism officially emerged with Claude Monet's painting, Impression, Sunrise, French collector and critic Philippe Burty coined the term Japonisme, which is translated to Japonism. While, today, the term refers to all Japanese art forms' influence on any art movement, it is usually used to describe woodblock prints' prominent role in Impressionism.

Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1856—58, is characterised by its unusual viewpoints. Evening view of Saruwaka Street, with its use of linear perspective and a single vanishing point, contains the most overt use of realism in the series. The most unusual feature of this work is Hiroshige’s use of shadows. Rarely seen in Japanese art, these shadows infuse his depiction of the moonlit Kabuki theatre district of Saruwaka-machi with an eerie quality that would have appealed to the public taste for the bizarre. However, the regular order of deep pictorial space was seen as inelegant and conflicted with the traditional style of emphasising the abstract poetic qualities of a painting.

The museum also went on creating a garden that consists of nearly 200 kinds of flowers and trees similar to those planted at Giverny by Claude Monet. Here, visitors can stroll around the flora ranging from the water lilies that Monet painted in his later years to willows, irises, and other plants. The garden aims to provide a tangible experience of the nature Monet sought to capture in his paintings. And since “the way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach”, the museum shop even offers cookies and jam based on the recipes left behind by Monet.