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ExhibitionPrint Tsunami: Japonisme and Paris

Jul 3–Aug 23, 2015

color woodcut of a canal in winter

Exhibition Overview

With the opening of Japan in the 1850s, Japanese art became more readily available to Europeans, and in France it sparked Japonisme. For most Parisians, Japonisme was no more than a fad, but for printmakers, the influx of Japanese art—Japanese prints in particular—was a bombshell. Henri-Gustave Jossot’s The Wave (1894) humorously expresses the effect of Japanese prints, showing an artist along with his easel and canvas being swept overboard by a Japoniste wave. Jossot no doubt refers to Hokusai’s famous print The Great Wave (1830–1835).

French printmakers were inspired by these images that were at once recognizable and yet wholly unfamiliar. Their response to Japanese prints ran the gamut from outright copying to quite subtle assimilation of particular color harmonies, interest in patterns, or adoption of similar subject matter. The works in this exhibition draw from the Chazen’s collection of prints to compare the works of French printmakers to the Japanese prints that inspired them.

IMAGE: Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1754–1806), The Courtesan Hanamurasaki of the Tama Establishment Touching Her Brush to Her Lips, from the series The Seven Komachi of the Licensed Quarters, ca. 1796, color woodcut, 386 x 259 mm, bequest of John H. Van Vleck, 1980.3217

Programming & Financial Support

Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Chazen Museum of Art Council and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.