East Meets West -- Japonisme and Impressionism

This collection includes highlights exploring the artistic and cultural exchange between Japan and the West. Japanese woodblock prints side-by-side with French Impressionist works on paper. Look at the artistic influences and parallels. Afterwards, go visit the Impressionist galleries in person to look for similar parallels in paintings on display. And to round out your experience, swing by the Japanese woodblock print gallery #107 to explore the current exhibition of Japanese prints.
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86921
The actor Ichikawa Ebizo IV as Takemura Sadanoshin
Toshusai Sharaku 東洲斎 写楽
Japanese, active 1794-95

The actor Ichikawa Ebizo IV as Takemura Sadanoshin, 1794
1925.2733

Currently not on display

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This print of a Kabuki actor has a bold black outline in the shape of an arc. What does that shape remind you of? How about a folding fan? This is a "fan print," which was a very popular type of print in the Edo period. The caption includes instructions telling you to cut along the line and paste the print to the ribs of an old fan. Presto! A new fan! Look at how highly expressive the actor is. See his bold makeup.
80857
Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Etruscan Gallery
Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917

Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Etruscan Gallery, 1879–80
1921.368

Currently not on display

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Utamaro was an extremely famous and prolific woodblock print artist known especially for representations of elegant feminine beauties. A common aesthetic in Utamaro's prints is a partially veiled figure, done here with the comb over her face. It's kind of like the "forbidden fruit." Look at the beautiful wallpaper background. Prints in the Edo period served as something like the "Vogue" and interior design magazines of their day.
47970
WO-47970
Ito Shinsui
Japanese, 1898-1972

WO-47970, March 1920
1974.533

Currently not on display

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Perhaps the Art Institute's most recognizable Japanese print, this is one of 4 Great Wave prints in the collection.
24001
Woman Holding a Tortoise-shell Hair-comb
Kitagawa Utamaro 喜多川 歌麿
Japanese, 1753 (?)-1806

Woman Holding a Tortoise-shell Hair-comb, c. 1795/96
1925.3068

Currently not on display

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A popular aesthetic in Edo-period Japanese prints was cropping the scene. Here we're seeing only part of the picture. Clues in the scene tell us that what we can't see is the client and courtesan off scene in the morning after their rendezvous.
58555
Objet No. 2
Onchi Koshiro
Japanese, 1891-1955

Objet No. 2, 1954
1979.629

Currently not on display

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In 1853 American Commodore Matthew Perry anchored his infamous black ships off the coast of Japan and forced trade negotiations, opening Japan up to the West after centuries of isolation.
14854
The Powhatan
Artist unknown
Japanese

The Powhatan, c. 1854
1962.644

Currently not on display

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An unflattering caricature of Commodore Perry on the Japanese newspapers of the day.
21088
Jane Avril, from Le Café-Concert
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901)
printed by Edward Ancourt & Cie (French, 19th-20th c.)
published by L'Estampe originale (French, 1893-1895)

Jane Avril, from Le Café-Concert, 1893
1935.49

Currently not on display

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Many people in Japan became enraptured by the West and all things Western, even if it was entirely fabricated. I don't know of many towns in America with Baroque architecture, looming green mountains, and palm trees.
13508
The Letter
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926)
printed with Leroy (French, active 1876-1900)

The Letter, 1890/91
1932.1282

Currently not on display

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Van Gogh was an avid collector of Japanese prints, which began to influence his work immensely.
31640
Tetards (Pollards)
Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853-1890

Tetards (Pollards), 1884
1969.268

Currently not on display

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Cezanne created a series of paintings of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, much like the popular Japanese print tradition of the series (e.g. "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji")
7635
Cover for Yvette Guilbert
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
French, 1864-1901

Cover for Yvette Guilbert, 1894
1931.49

Currently not on display

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A study for Degas's "Mary Cassatt in the Painting Gallery of the Louvre."
[Manet, Monet, and Degas] "all found a confirmation rather than inspiration for their personal ways of seeing, feeling, understanding and interpreting nature. The result was a redoubling of individual originality instead of a cowardly submission to Japanese art." Ernest Chesneau, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1878. Look at the strong cropping and the veiled of obscured appearance of Mary Cassatt (her back to us) and her sister sitting on the bench with her head buried in a book. Strong Japanese aesthetics.
Mary Cassatt was heavily inspired to experiment with woodblock printing after viewing Japanese prints at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle.
14856
Commodore Perry
Artist unknown
Japanese

Commodore Perry, c. 1853/54
1962.645

Currently not on display

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If we didn't know better, an uninformed eye might wonder if this is a Japanese print.
13506
Woman Bathing
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926)
printed with Leroy (French, active 1876-1900)

Woman Bathing, 1890-91
1932.1281

Currently not on display

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See how the figure to the right is rendered by just a few simple lines?
13620
Cover for the first album of L'Estampe originale
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901)
printed by Imprimerie Edward Ancourt
published by L'Estampe originale (French, 1893-1895)

Cover for the first album of L'Estampe originale, 1893
1932.1326

Currently not on display

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Toulouse-Lautrec enjoyed rendering the mere "impression" of Loie Fuller on stage.
The myriad of shifting colors in HTL's series of print of Loie Fuller suggests the colorfully shifting stage light.
32432
A Picture of Prosperity: America (Amerika shin no zu)
Utagawa Hiroshige II (Shigenobu)
Japanese, 1826-1869

A Picture of Prosperity: America (Amerika shin no zu), 1861
1926.1787

Currently not on display

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Here Jane Avril is rendered by just a few simple lines.
89227
Otani Hiroji III as an Otokodate, possibly Satsuma Gengobei in Iro Moyo Aoyagi Soga (Green Willow Soga of Erotic Design)
Katsukawa Shunsho 勝川 春章
Japanese, 1726-1792
Publisher: Iwatoya Gempachi

Otani Hiroji III as an Otokodate, possibly Satsuma Gengobei in Iro Moyo Aoyagi Soga (Green Willow Soga of Erotic Design), About 1775
1928.987

Currently not on display

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Yvette Guilbert reduced to nothing more than her signature long black gloves.
Sharaku has a very short career of just 10 months, but he created some of the most lively, expressive faces in the history of the Japanese woodblock print art form. Ichikawa Ebizo IV is recognizable here by his beaked nose and the Danjuro acting family crest on his robe.
54723
Portrait of Aristide Bruant, from Le Café-Concert
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901)
printed by Edward Ancourt & Cie (French, 19th-20th c.)
published by L'Estampe originale (French, 1893-1895)

Portrait of Aristide Bruant, from Le Café-Concert, 1893
1946.37

Currently not on display

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20529
Montagne Saint-Victoire (The Arc Valley)
Paul Cézanne
French, 1839-1906

Montagne Saint-Victoire (The Arc Valley), c. 1885
1964.199

Currently not on display

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Aristide Bruant was a well known Parisian actor. He's highly recognizable by his signature black hat and long scarf.
111902
Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Paintings Gallery
Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917

Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Paintings Gallery, 1885
1949.515

Currently not on display

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Many Japanese prints were produced as diptychs or triptychs. Here elegant beauties engage in the process of woodblock printing.
8807
Miss Loïe Fuller
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
French, 1864-1901

Miss Loïe Fuller, 1893
1931.451

Currently not on display

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The fascination with Japanese prints in the West led to a rise in the legitimacy of printing as an art form. Toulouse-Lautrec was an extremely prolific as a print and poster artist in Paris.
43985
Miss Loïe Fuller
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
French, 1864-1901

Miss Loïe Fuller, 1893
1942.20

Currently not on display

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The French Impressionist movement, in turn, influenced some Japanese artists, like Ito Shinsui. This print is inspired by Van Gogh's "Wheat Field with a Lark" (Amsterdam).



Onchi Koshiro revolutionized the Japanese print art form, including introducing western ideas of abstraction.




While we encourage personal discovery and interpretation of works of art in our care, the commentaries associated with the works in My Collections have not been reviewed or approved for accuracy or content and are expressly not endorsed by the Art Institute of Chicago.

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