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Japonismes / Impressionnismes

When Japan opened up to trade and diplomacy in 1868, it revealed to Western artists an aesthetic that was radically different from the one they had been learning for centuries.

Endlessly reinterpreted, age-old artistic principles had reigned supreme over the arts for centuries, but Japanese art offered a fresh visual vocabulary, which quickly became a source of artistic inspiration in Europe and the United States.

Ukiyo-e was based on radically different conventions from those taught to students at the École des Beaux-Arts. The power of its images stemmed from the vibrant colours, the absence of shading and the rendering of forms in flat planes and pure tints, together with an original approach to composition based on asymmetry. Furthermore, like the Impressionists, the masters of the woodblock print set out to deliver a message that differed from the celebration of nature and contemporary life. The most innovative painters absorbed this refined art form that seemed in tune to their aspirations, opening the way for a veritable artistic revolution.

Since the 1980s, Japonisme has been showcased in numerous exhibitions and the phenomenon has turned out to be so extensive that it seemed to us more appropriate to refer to its manifestations in the plural, just as we prefer to speak of ‘Impressionisms’. Our exhibition focuses on its impact on the work of painters from the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist generation, from the 1870s to the beginning of the 20th century. Claude Monet, who was among the first French artists to take an interest in Japanese woodblock prints, provides the focal point and the exhibition thus resonates with particular force at Giverny.


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