In the late 19th century, many Impressionism artists in Europe had a deep interest in Japanese art. One Impressionism artist that was inspired by Japanese art was Claude Monet.
Japan opened its doors to the western world for trade in 1853, and with that came a flood of Japanese art, artifacts, and textiles to Europe. Many Impressionist artists were fascinated with Japan, but one heavily influenced by Japanese art and the Japanese artist’s technique was Claude Monet.
The Rise Of Japonisme And Art
The term Japonisme was coined by the French art critic Philippe Burty in 1872. It was a word used to refer to Japan and Japan’s art influence on the west, particularly in Europe.
Following years of isolation, Japan started to open up its country to trade in 1853. The start of trade began to see the rise of Japanese art, artifacts, and fabrics, including silks and embroideries; they all made their way into the west and Europe.
What is unique is that Japan was closed off from the western world for so long that the Japanese artists developed art and an artistic style that was utterly untouched by the rest of the world. The Japanese art was truly Japanese in every way.
Japanese Art Comes To Paris
The opening of Japan to the world, in particular, to trade started to come to France, where Monet and the other impressionist were located. The Paris International Exposition of 1867 brought Japanese art into France; this was the beginning of the Japonisme movement in art.
In Paris, the art dealer Siegfried Bing was one of the first importers of Japanese decorative arts into Europe. Bing brought the Japanese art and artifacts into his shop La Porte Chinoise and promoted them in his magazine La Japon Artistique, published from 1888 to 1891.
Bing was also a significant supporter of Art Nouveau, a decorative style that shows its influence on Japan or the Japonisme influence.
Claude Monet And Japonisme
Claude Monet found the Japanese art that he saw in Paris fascinating. He was heavily influenced by Japanese printmaking, screen-painting, and Japanese woodblock prints.
We do not know when his fascination with Japanese art started, and it could be that he first saw Japanese art at the Paris 1867 exhibition or Bing’s La Porte Chinoise shop. Monet claims that he first saw the art when he was 16 or 17 years old, but this has not been verified as there was not a lot of Japanese art in Europe during that time.
We know that Monet was a collector of Japanese art, and he had many Japanese art prints hanging in his studio. Japanese art and the work of the Japanese artists daily surrounded him.
We do know that Monet was fascinated with Japanese art. One of his main fascinations was with the Japanese woodblock print artists of the Ukiyo-e period.
Here are some of the ways he was fascinated with Japanese art and the art influenced him:
Linear Perspective Of Japanese Art
The Japanese woodblock print artists were experts at understanding the linear perspective of art. They were able to use their woodblock prints to create an illusion of depth on a flat surface.
The linear perspective of art had been around for a while, at least since the time of the Renaissance. What inspired Monet is how the Japanese used the linear perspective different than what he had seen before.
Stylization Of Japanese Prints
The Japanese woodblock prints had a unique stylization, particularly how the Japanese woodblock print artists used monochrome color schemes in their woodblock prints. The Japanese woodblock print artists would use different shades and hues of the same color.
We can see some of the same influences and monochrome colors in many of Monet’s artwork.
Also, Monet liked how color was used in the Japanese woodblock prints. The color was put on a large area with striking contrasts. This included how fields of color could sometimes be used to flatten out a Japanese woodblock print.
Use Of Asian Influences And Patterns
Monet’s paintings used many Japanese patterns, including flowers; Monet liked how the Japanese would repeat these patterns on fabrics and other things. In a lot of Monet’s artwork, he did not try to hide or camouflage the patterns; this showed how fascinated Monet was with all things that were Japanese.
Nature Perspective In Japanese Art
Monet was also impressed with how the Japanese artists, particularly Ukiyo-e woodblock print artists, would use nature and other objects in their art. Things like water, bridges, and flowers and how the artist used these elements and positioned them in their work.
Positioning Of Their Models
Monet was also impressed with how Japanese woodblock print artists would position their models and people in their artwork. They had people looking down or in a uniquely Japanese pose and not the standard European poses.
Comparisons Of Art Subject Matter
It is interesting to look at some Japanese artists and artwork by Monet side-by-side to see the Japanese or Japonisme’s influence on Monet and his work.
When we look at this, we can see some distinct similarities.
The Garden of Sainte-Adresse (Monet, 1867) Vs. Fuji From The Platform Of Sasayedo (Katsushika Hokusai, 19th century)
In 1867, Monet spent the summer with his family at Sainte-Adresse. He painted a scene of his parents and other family members when he was there.
In Monet’s painting, you can see how the sky, ocean, and terraces are all in the frame. The choice of colors, the positioning of the people, and the overall look are pretty similar to the woodblock print Fuji from the Platform of Sasayedo by Katsushika Hokusai.
We did not know when this woodblock print by Hokusai was made, but it was probably about the mid-1800s. But we know that Monet says this print, The Garden of Sainte-Adresse, was influenced by this woodblock print.
La Japonaise (Monet, 1867) Vs. Geisha By Kitagawa Tsukimaro (1820-1829)
La Japonaise has also been titled Camille Monet in a Japanese Costume. Monet painted this portrait of his wife in a Japanese-style kimono, surrounded by Japanese fans.
His wife is most notably wearing a blonde wig, which shows this is a western, not a Japanese painting. The painting shows how extensively Japanese art, clothing, and culture had become very popular in Europe.
The Geisha by Kitagawa Tsukimaro is from a pair of hanging scroll paintings that are very typical of the Japanese style of women in a kimono with varied patterns and colors. You can see how the women are looking in the same direction and way while holding a fan.
The Water Lily Pond (Monet, 1900) Vs. Under Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa (Katsushika Hokusai, 1830-31)
In 1883 Monet moved to Giverny, a small village near Paris, and bought some land. He built a pond, a water garden, and a Japanese-style bridge on the land. His garden at Giverny became his Japanese-style paradise in France for painting his artwork.
Monet was not just influenced by Japanese art; he really loved the Japanese art and artists, culture, landscape, and way of life.
In his painting The Water Lily Pond, we can see similarities to Under Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa by Hokusai. Hokusai’s woodblock print and Monet’s painting of the bridge are the main focus of the painting.
We do not know if Monet saw this exact print by Hokusai, but as this was a prevalent theme and Japanese layout, he must have seen some similar Japanese woodblock prints where the bridge was the central focal part of the art.
Undoubtedly, Claude Monet was influenced by Japanese culture, art, and life. He even incorporated it into his artwork and his way of life. The rise and start of Japonisme happened during Monet’s lifetime and continued to influence him throughout his life.
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What Does Japonisme Mean?
The term Japonisme is about the influence of Japanese art on European culture and arts. Most notably, the influence Japanese woodblock prints had on the Impression art movement. Many of the prominent artists from the Impressionism art movement were inspired by the Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock print artists.