Japanese Paintings as Seen Around the World

By Staff Writer
November 10, 2023
Traditional Japanese painting include various artistic movements, such as "Yamato-e," "Kanō," and "Nihonga" styles, characterized by natural themes, landscapes, and depictions of everyday life in homes and palaces. These styles are significantly influenced by ancient Japanese philosophy like ""wabi-sabi,"" which emphasizes the beauty of natural aging, and ""yūgen,"" highlighting subtlety and grace.
Katsushika Hokusai: Fuji from the Katakura Tea Fields in Suruga
Japanese paintings hold a significant presence beyond the borders of Japan. Starting in the late 16th century, distinctive Japanese paintings and aesthetics began to make their way to European countries, leaving a lasting influence on many European artists. Moreover, in 1853, the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry opened Japan to the outside world after more than two centuries of isolation. Perry brought back a significant collection of ukiyo-e, a style of Japanese woodblock print and painting which descended from Yamato-e painting, and other Japanese paintings to the United States. Japanese paintings started appearing in Paris from the 1850s and garnered attention at the International Exhibition of 1867 in Paris. By the 1870s, Japanese arts, particularly ukiyo-e, became a popular trend in many European countries, giving rise to "Japonism", a cultural influence that marked the emergence of new European art movements that were significantly influenced by Japanese art practices. Among the many Western artists that Ukiyo-e had an impact on were early Impressionists like Degas, Manet, and Monet, as well as Post-Impressionists such as van Gogh, and Art Nouveau artists like Toulouse-Lautrec.

Impressionist painting of a woman in kimono influenced by ukiyo-e
The distinctiveness of Japanese paintings can be attributed to Japan's historical isolation, which was not solely a result of geography but also a cultural inclination towards seclusion. Throughout the centuries of Japanese civilization, their culture and art evolved independently, leaving a unique mark on Japanese painting practices that distinguishes them from the rest of the world.
Utamaro Ukiyo-e
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