Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Japonisme/Europeanisme

In the course of this blog, I often use the word Japonisme, as a way of encapsulating the rejuvenating, electrifying effect that exposure to Japanese art and aesthetics had on European artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist era. One of the first blogs I started to follow was Lily's Japonisme, which has remained a source of great value to me. The meaning of the word Japonisme can best be shown visually, perhaps by looking at this colour autolithograph by Henri Rivière (1864-1951).

Henri Rivière, Brume matinale (Matin de brume à Loguivy)
Lithograph, 1903

But was Japonisme a one-way street, with European artists learning from the Japanese, and the Japanese going on their own sweet way? Of course not. Japanese artists were as eager to learn from the West as European artists were to learn from the East. Here is an example of what I mean, a modernist female nude by Kiyoshi Hasegawa (Hasegawa Kiyoshi, as it should be in Japanese convention). I think this is a wonderful piece of work, a machine age nude rather than an Art Deco one.

Kiyoshi Hasegawa, Femme nue
Engraving, 1929

Kiyoshi Hasegawa was born in Yokohama in 1891. He moved to Paris alongside fellow Japanese artist Tsuguharu Foujita, and spent most of his life there, working in a Western style deeply influenced by the subtlety of line and feeling in Japanese art. I have to admit I don't know the precise dates at which Foujita and Hasegawa arrived in Paris, but I have a strong feeling that Foujita got there first, and that Hasegawa was always therefore second fiddle to his compatriot. Western influences on Hasegawa's work include Jean Laboureur and Jules Pascin. Hasegawa's prints are primarily engravings and mezzotints. He died in 1980. In 2005 the Yokohama Museum of Art received over 1000 items from the Paris atelier of Kiyoshi Hasegawa.

12 comments:

TG said...

Les "japonismes" ne se font pas de Sushi… (hum!)
Très beau dessin encore une fois . Thank you.

Maison Conti said...

Such an interesting post...and wonderful observation. The Rivière is to die for! That red cow amidst the foggy greens. So scrumptious. I have a John Platt (have you ever blogged about him?) which hangs next to my Toshi Yoshida who is a contemporary artist who lived and worked in California during the 60s and 70s. I really like the way the two artistic traditions have affected one another.

Neil said...

Thanks, Thomas. I appreciate your input, and your joke.

Neil said...

Maison Conti - The Rivière is lovely, isn't it - somehow very Breton and very Japanese at the same time. You're right it's the red cow that makes it. I've never blogged about John Edgar Platt, and in fact have never had any of his work, but I see the connection. I envy you your recent trip to Paris - you just have to mention visiting the Sennelier shop to fill me with longing.

Jane Librizzi said...

An artist who found his own personal 'Japan' in Brittany, Riviere's work always give pleasure.
I think that one reason that the influnece that runs in the other direction gets short shrift is that it has been controversial. It's been equated with colonoialism, imperialism, and other evils. It has also been viewed as impure, something the Japanese produced for export only. Like any art, ultimately the work has the last word if people like it.

Neil said...

That's a very interesting point, Jane. I would be very interested to hear from any Japanese readers of this blog how artists such as Foujita and Hasegawa are now viewed in Japan.

Philip Wilkinson said...

There's so much in the Rivière when you look at it closely, from the artful arrangement of the tree trunks to the little patches of colour that make up the grass. And that squiggle of red-brown at bottom right, mirroring the colour of the cow.

Neil said...

Philip, you're so right. The accepted view of Rivière seems to be that he was a brilliant wood engraver, who then began turning his woodblock prints into lithographs, and then abandoned woodblocks for lithography, getting a little less interesting each time. I don't think this is true - it was an organic progression, with each stage incorporating the last and turning it into something new. I think this particular lithograph shows both how much Rivière had learned from studying Japanese woodblock prints, and how much autolithography could offer and add to his artistic expression.

k.r.h.voigt said...

Neil,
I am not Japanese, but I'm quite sure I have read somewhere that Riviere's work is held in high esteem in Japan.
As I mentioned on Clive's blog, in my opinion the similarities between some of Riviere's lithographs and the woodcuts of Kawase Hasui are amazing, especially in the way they treat aspects like ships and water/the sea. It is interesting that Riviere produced his important prints before Hasui`s landscapes became famous all over the world. I would like to know whether the Japanese knew the Frenchman's works, or whether maybe they developed their style independently, both under the influence of Japanese examples like Hiroshige and Hokusai, of course.

Klaus

Neil said...

Klaus - I don't know about the relative points of influence on Rivière and Kawase Hasui - but there is certainly a surprising similarity in their work. It's probably a case of two people coming up with the same idea from opposite poles.

lotusgreen said...

well of course by the time of hasui, and even earlier, the yoshidas, watanabi was publishing the prints and agenting for the artists, and he knew what the western art purchasers wanted. so the great big feedback loop....

what i find even more bizarre to my western eyes, still!, are the japanese matisses and renoirs.

Neil said...

I like the feedback loop image, Lily - a very accurate description of all that cross-fertilization. And you're right of course to remind us that the art market was actively involved in the process right from the start.