Japan, France, and East-West Aesthetics: French Literature, 1867-2000

Japan, France, and East-West Aesthetics: French Literature, 1867-2000

Japan, France, and East-West Aesthetics: French Literature, 1867-2000

Japan, France, and East-West Aesthetics: French Literature, 1867-2000

Synopsis

"As art historians have long known, the discovery of Japanese woodblock prints in Paris, following the opening of Japan to the West in 1854, was a startling aesthetic encounter that played a crucial role in the Impressionists' and Post-Impressionists' invention of Modernism. Japan, France shows that leading French writers shared that shock of encounter and also experimented with Japanese aesthetics in their own work, in ways that similarly thread into the foundations of Modernism." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Although the facts of time and place have receded into legend, like many historical records of the birth of Modernism, it is certain that a packet of Japanese prints arrived in Paris around 1860 and instantly created a widening wave of amazement, incredulity, and exhilaration. the shock of encounter was so great, and the moment so crucial, that fifty years later painters and writers were still disputing its lore. the most persistent legend has it that japonisme was born in a Paris engraver's studio in the Spring of 1856, when Félix Bracquemond opened a crate of ceramics from the Far East, only to discover that they were wrapped in a sheaf of Hokusai prints. Astonished and exultant, he immediately showed them to his friends Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, James Whistler, Camille Pissarro, the painters who were to form the avant-garde of the next decade. Although known to a few specialists before 1840, the Japanese woodcut prints had "arrived" in Europe with Bracquemond's discovery, and would change the course of Western art.

Art historians have long recognized the extraordinary impact of this encounter. Defining the pivotal role of the Japanese print in the development of French Impressionism, Klaus Berger, Siegfried Wichmann, Gabriel Weisberg, Elisa Evett, and others have shown that the new Japanese aesthetic arrived at a moment of crisis in Western painting (it seemed to Renoir that the Impressionists' dissolving of realistic surfaces through the play of light had become merely mechanical, until he saw the prints: "I had come to the end of Impressionism…. I was in a blind alley," quoted in Berger, Japonisme, 2). Literary scholars, however, have paid little attention to the French writers' intimate involvements in this process of EastWest aesthetic change. the writers too chafed at anemic academic formulas and exulted at the fresh possibilities opened by Japanese art, in literature as in painting. Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Emile Zola, the Goncourt brothers, Stéphane Mallarmé, Joris-Karl Huysmans all wrote about this new Japanese art. the youngest among them experimented with the new aesthetic in their own work.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.