The Washington Post just posted a dual review of two books discussing the impact that Japanese art had on the European art world during the late 19th century, as Japanese art began to flow into the West following the ‘opening’ of Japan by Perry and the subsequent Meiji restoration.

Japonisme is filled with firsthand observations from a slew of artists such as Renoir and Monet. The author pinpoints the relationship between James McNeill Whistler’s oil paintings, especially his “Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony,” and Torii Kiyonaga’s work. A woodcut print of a group of Japanese courtesans entertaining a customer is juxtaposed with Whistler’s painting of Western women dressed in kimonos: The composition and the perspective, with its view of the water, were clearly inspired by Kiyonaga’s print, which, in fact, Whistler owned.

Cultural Crossings Between Japan and the West
By Lionel Lambourne
Phaidon. 240 pp. $69.95

The Bing Empire
Edited by Gabriel P. Weisberg, Edwin Becker and Evelyne Possémé
Mercatorfonds. 295 pp. $69.95

The Zimmerli Art Museum, located on the campus of my alma mater, Rutgers University, has a well put together collection also entitled Japonisme, which primarily focuses on art created in France under the influence of Japanese works. I recommend that anyone at Rutgers or in the vicinity check out this exhibit (I believe admission is free, but that may only be for students. Or I may be wrong.) Unfortunately, they have but a single image from it online.


Comprising turn-of-the-last-century European and American works on paper and ceramics as well as related Japanese art, this collection reveals the strong influence of the art of Japan on the art of the West and in so doing reflects the pervasive cross-cultural interchange which took place between Japan and the West beginning in 1854 when, after 200 years of isolation, Japan opened its doors to the West.