Japonisme in Britain: A Source of Inspiration: J. McN. Whistler, Mortimer Menpes, George Henry, E. A. Hornel and Nineteenth Century Japan

Ono, Ayako (2001) Japonisme in Britain: A Source of Inspiration: J. McN. Whistler, Mortimer Menpes, George Henry, E. A. Hornel and Nineteenth Century Japan. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Japan held a profound fascination for Western artists in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The influence of Japanese art is a phenomenon that is now called Japonisme, and it spread widely throughout Western art. It is quite hard to make a clear definition of Japonisme because of the breadth of the phenomenon, but it could be generally agreed that it is an attempt to understand and adapt the essential qualities of Japanese art. This thesis explores Japanese influences on British Art and will focus on four artists working in Britain: the American James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), the Australian Mortimer Menpes (1855-1938), and two artists from the group known as the Glasgow Boys, George Henry (1858-1934) and Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933). Whistler was one of the earliest figures who incorporated Japanese elements in his art but never visited Japan; Menpes visited the country and learned Japanese artistic methods from a Japanese artist; Henry and Hornel visited Japan and responded to Japanese photography mass-produced for foreign market. The purpose of this thesis is to consider how Western artists understood and accepted Japanese art as a source of inspiration. To emphasise and support my view that Japanese art was one of the sources of inspiration for the creation of European art, I will also discuss western influences on Japanese art in the second half of the nineteenth century since this movement, supported by the Japanese government, is a good comparison with Japonisme. The historical background of Japonisme will be discussed in chapter one with a variety of examples taken from decorative art, paintings and cartoons. These examples have been chosen from the works of artists who were associated with the Aesthetic Movement and interested in the improvement of Design, since in the early stages Japonisme in Britain was developed by leading figures of these movements. The breadth of the phenomenon is too wide to be included in any one thesis so theatre, music, architecture, sculpture or photography are not included. I will examine the essence of Japonisme by making comparisons between Whistler, Menpes, and Henry and Hornel. For the sake of consistency in these comparisons, I am going to concentrate on pictorial art. However, Menpes' studio-house with its Japanese decoration is also going to be discussed since despite his wish to recreate an authentic Japanese interior, he did not understand the fundamental basis of Japanese architecture, so that the result was superficial. The artists have been chosen and discussed as follows. James McNeill Whistler, one of the earliest and most important figures of Japonisme, is going to be discussed in chapter two as an example of an artist who had never been to Japan but found profound inspiration in it. He did not simply imitate Japanese art but found hints and suggestions in it. His own style, as established in his series of Nocturnes, with their musical titles, shows how he was inspired visually by Japanese art. Mortimer Menpes, regarded as one of Whistler's followers, is going to be discussed in chapter three as an example of an artist who visited Japan and received lessons directly from a Japanese artist. He went to Japan in 1887 and in 1896, and he met Kawanabe Kyosai on his first visit to Japan. He learned Japanese artistic methods and developed his own style by finding a common strand between Western and Japanese art. George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel are going to be discussed in chapter four as examples of artists who went to Japan and used photographs mass-produced for souvenirs and exports in Japan. These photographs, of a type now called Yokohama Shashin, were produced in the late nineteenth century for export or for the buoyant market in Japan for souvenirs for foreign visitors. Henry and Hornel acquired them while they were in Japan (1893-94) to aid their artistic creation. As one of the means of examining Japonisnie, in chapter five I am going to discuss the Western influence on Japanese art, which started in the middle of the nineteenth century. At the time when Europe started to find an inspiration in Japanese art, European civilisation surged into Japan. The opening of Japan was a process of major political, economic and social change that took place rapidly after the arrival of Commodore Perry. As a result, various influences on Japanese life-style, clothing, buildings, education system and form of government spread into Japan from the west. Adopting Western science, industrial technology, economic and social systems was essential for Japan to avoid the colonisation that the other Asian countries had experienced. Learning Western art was included as a part of the modernisation of Japan, and eventually, it caused the establishment of Yoga, which was a new form of art. To examine the essence of Japonisme, it is useful to discuss Western influences on Japanese art, and the process of the establishment of Yoga, which eventually was Japanised by the beginning of the twentieth-century. In conclusion, I am going to summarise these chapters and compare these artists to show that Japanese art and objects were sources of inspiration, no matter if the artists had been to Japan or no matter if they had a conscious knowledge of Japonisme.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Margaret F MacDonald
Keywords: Art history, Art criticism
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-76007
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:08
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:08
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/76007

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