The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is highlighting the richness of Japan’s contributions to art and design with an exhibition titled “Japon-Japonismes, 1867-2018” from November 15, 2018 through March 3, 2019.
“Agents of Discovery,” the first of the exhibition’s five themes, begins with collections brought from Japan by travellers and merchants like Henri Cernuschi, Émile Guimet, Hugues Krafft, Siegfried Bing, Florine Langweil and Hayashi Tadamasa. These individuals not only facilitated the dissemination of Japanese objects in Europe including lacquerware, ceramics, prints, bronzes, baskets, combs, textiles, wallpapers, katagami, kimono and tsuba, but also introduced Western designs to the Japanese. Western attraction to Japanese artistic techniques, principally the composition of Japanese prints, the refinement of their porcelain, ceramics and metalwork and the delicacy of their lacquer, spurred European artistic production resulting in a style ever-more referred to as Japanism.
“Nature”, a source of inspiration important to Japanese and Western artists, plunges the visitor into a world of plants, flowers and animals. Motifs inspired by flora and fauna opened up an ornamental and symbolic lexical field in 1868 that contributed to the foundations of Japanism both in France and around the world.
“Time”, and the relationships that the Japanese maintain with their own history, is illustrated through the rhythm of the seasons and the traditional life in the Edo period (1603-1868). Subjects relating to daily life and customs such as the ceremonies surrounding tea, incense and calligraphy, as well as those linked to spirituality, invite the visitor to witness the Japanese reverence for time and history.
In addressing the theme of “Movement”, the exhibition underscores the capacity of Japanese artists to seize the present moment on paper – a capacity that European artists have emulated. Movement is also expressed in the lines of certain historic and contemporary decorative arts. This tradition of capturing movement in design continues to influence artists and designers, and can be seen in works such as the Butterfly stool by Yanagi Sori and the bamboochaise longue by Charlotte Perriand.
The exhibition culminates with “Innovations,” a study of how Japanese techniques and artistic influences have intermingled with innovative processes since the late 19th Century. From ceramics and metalwork to graphic design and fashion, “Innovations” brings together great names of the 20th and 21st Centuries: Madeleine Vionnet, Junya Watanabe, Paul Poiret, Miyake Issey, Koshino Junko, Kawakubo Rei (Comme des Garçons) and John Galliano are just a few of the eminent artists and designers who have embraced Japan in their aesthetic.