written by Lionel Lambourne
Phaidon Press | ISBN 9780714847979
Paperback – 240 pages
Member’s price: $62.96
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From the moment of the very first contact in the sixteenth century, Japan has always possessed an irresistible fascination for the West. The fascination was if anything increased when Japan closed its borders in 1638, and for over 200 years the only contact was through a small colony of Dutch traders who were permitted to live on the tiny island of Deshima in Nagasaki Bay. After 1858, full trade was resumed, and a wave of 'Japanomania' swept across Europe and America. The 1862 Great Exhibition in London was the first to display a wide range of Japanese goods in the west. Visited by hundreds of thousands of people, the prints, ceramics and lacquer work became the height of fashion. Christopher Dresser travelled to Japan in 1876 as an agent for Tiffany & Co. He visited 64 potteries and dozens of other manufacturers. Not only did he take photographs home to spread the word there, but he also advised the Japanese how best to export their trade. This two way dialogue offers a rich synthesis of fine art and the decorative arts, as well as popular culture. Lionel Lambourne tells this remarkable story in a fluent and engaging narrative that focuses on the human drama - often amusing but sometimes tragic - of the individual personalities involved in the two-way dialogue between cultures. After an introduction telling the story of the first contacts, the long isolation and the events leading to the renewal of free trade in Japan, he turns to Europe and captures the excitement as artists - notably Whistler and the Impressionists - discovered Japanese prints and artefacts, and began to incorporate their influence in their own work. The story spreads far beyond fine art and follows the Japanese craze into the decorative arts, interior design, furnishings, fashion accessories and, importantly, literature and theatre. With his inimitable style and his rich store of well-chosen anecdotes, the author brings the personalities to life, and conveys a vivid impression of the enthusiasm that Japonisme generated. He also devotes chapters to travel, Japonisme in America, landscape and gardens, and the curious subject of spooks and ghosts. The visual impact of Japan on the West was enormous, and this is wonderfully conveyed in the rich and varied selection of illustrations - some 250 in all - which include many original Japanese prints and artefacts juxtaposed with the works that they directly inspired, as well as the whole range of the decorative arts, posters, advertisements, book illustrations, fashion, cartoons, photography, gardens and architecture. With its lively text full of human interest and closely supported by a wealth of beautiful illustrations, "Japonisme" will provide the perfect introduction to this popular subject for the widest possible audience, and will also be a valuable reference source for teachers and students.