With Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh … Japanese Inspirations, Museum Folkwang is devoting a major exhibition to one of the most fascinating chapters of French art in the second half of the 19th century. The show focuses on the period between 1860 and 1910, the development and heyday of the craze for Japanese art in France. For the first time in more than twenty-five years, therefore, a multifaceted exhibition is being held on the phenomenon known as Japonisme.
Japanese art is of fundamental importance for the development of European modernism. Almost all great masters – from Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh to Pierre Bonnard – were fascinated and inspired by Japanese pictorial motifs and stylistic devices. Even Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso showed a keen interest for Japan well into the twentieth century.
The artists’ fascination for the Far Eastern country is evident in many respects: their works portray artefacts and commodities imported from Japan; they appropriate Japanese pictorial subjects to depict their own European environment; and – even more significantly – they incorporate the formal language of the Japanese colour woodcut. In combination with their own pictorial traditions and their respective times, it was this very internalisation of the Japanese stylistic devices that instilled creative processes in the artists, out of which they developed diverse forms of artistic expression that exerted an influence far into the 20th century.
The current exhibition presents different types of artistic discourse with Japan on the basis of major works by the most important artists of the time, which have kindly been lent to us from international museums and private collections.
Alongside paintings and prints of artists active in France such as Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, there will also be an extensive selection of Japanese colour woodcuts on show – primarily by Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai and Kitagawa Utamaro. These woodcuts partly stem from the former artists’ collections of the time. A range of Japanese artefacts (screens, vessels, masks, lacquerware, etc.) will also be juxtaposed with those of French artists such as Félix Bracquemond, Jean Carriès or Emile Gallé. Photographs and documents complete the image of Japan that France fostered in the nineteenth century. For the duration of the exhibition, therefore, close to four hundred works of various artistic genres are shown in the context of an inspirational artistic dialogue.
The exhibition is being presented in long-standing partnership with E.ON.