Following two centuries of self-isolation from the rest of the world, the 19th century saw Japan open its trade borders with the West. At a time when all things Oriental were the height of fashion in Europe, traditional Japanese art and household objects were genuinely admired by Western art collectors. The period of so-called Japanomania left a permanent impact on the European visual arts. More specifically, the French and English Orientalists were captivated by the opulence of Japanese culture, its silently seductive geishas and the samurai.
It was the filigree Japanese woodwork that inspired Vincent van Gogh to depict the elements of nature in such a thorough and detailed manner. Unsatisfied with stories and projections born from his own imagination, Claude Monet travelled from Paris to Oslo to paint the snow-peaked Norwegian mountain landscape, thus bringing the subject of the canvas closer to the nature of the Japanese archipelago. However, it was the Scandinavian modernists ‒ Edvard Munch, Carl Larsson and Vilhelm Hammershøi ‒ who found the Japanese minimalist aesthetics, the stylised depiction of nature and the elements particularly fascinating.
Examples of the influence of Oriental culture on the art of these and other artists are on view at the National Gallery of Denmark from 19 January through 23 April 2017 at the exhibition entitled Japanomania. www.smk.dk/en