Passion for the Exotic: Japonism
This exhibition was on display from September 09, 2017 to July 22, 2018.
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Starting in the 16th century, trade with Asia exposed Europeans to new objects, techniques, and artistic expressions. Most of the early trading took place with China and South Asia as Japan was a closed society, limiting exposure to Japanese design. This remained the case until 1854 when American Commodore Matthew C. Perry led a fleet into Japanese ports, demanding an end to Japan's self-imposed isolation and securing a treaty that opened the country to the West. The exports that subsequently arrived and were exhibited in the West caused American and European designers to engage in an inspired dialogue with Japanese aesthetics. The first of a number of international expositions that showcased Asian art and design was the 1862 International Exhibition in London, followed by the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867 and the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. Asian metalwork, ivories, lacquerwork, woodblock prints, and textiles provided inspiration with their wealth of distinctive decorative elements, many drawn from nature, including chrysanthemums, bamboo, fans, cranes, and more. As part of a broader interest in "exotic" cultures during the late 19th century, the inspiration of newly available Japanese design sources was soon joined by those of India to help create a European and American Aesthetic Movement.
Western designers exhibited an awareness of Eastern art and design through form, pattern, technique, and their choice of materials. The sophisticated New York furniture firm Herter Brothers produced pieces indebted to the rectilinearity of Asian furniture with inlay in motifs such as sunflowers, celebrated in Asian art. Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio hired Japanese artists who decorated vase forms with asymmetrical floral arrangements. The British designers Christopher Dresser and Walter Crane travelled to Japan and experienced native arts and crafts firsthand. Lockwood de Forest, the designer of this 1902 room, had a decorating business, best known for its love of Indian design, but which also incorporated Japanese ceramics and objects even before de Forest visited Japan in 1913.