This lesson will explore Japonism and the influence that Hokusai had amongst French impressionists.
Description: Katsushika Hokusai was one of the most skilled woodblock artists to have ever lived. He was born in 1760 and lived in the Katsushika district of Edo, Japan where he adopted his name. Hokusai began painting at the age of six and by the age of 12 he worked a bookshop where he read books that were made from wood block prints. From there everything is history, at age fourteen he became an apprentice to a wood-carver and honed his skills as an ukiyo-e artist.
Hokusai lived during Japan's Edo period which was one of openness and seclusion. During this time Japan and Europe traded extensively, bringing over trade goods such as clocks, glasses, firearms and artillery. However this symbiotic relationship didn't last long, over the years Japan began to be weary of European influences so they closed their doors again. The only nation that was allowed to trade with Japan after this were the Dutch. However, after many years the relationship between Japan and Europe was rekindled and during the Meiji restoration in the 19th century European culture began to change.
Subsequently due to eastern contact with the west, during the 19th century a sensation called Japonism was born. Influence of Japanese art, fashion and aesthetics on western culture were then made very apparent in western works of art. The man who was responsible for the birth of Japonism was the French impressionist painter etcher Felix Bracquemond. While on a stroll through the city of Paris he stumbled upon Hokusai's manga sketches and from there Hokusai's legacy was borne into the impressionist circle. Bracquemond shared his findings with artists such as Monet, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassat, Degas, Renior, van Gogh, Bonnard and many others.
Exploring this lesson, students will:
- Discover the many ways that Hokusai's prints have influenced his western contemporaries.
- Be able to compare and contrast between many different art styles.
- Evaluate the role of collaboration between artists
This discovery will require students to:
- Look closely and make visual observations about art
- Express their ideas and share them with their peers
- Generate hypotheses and observations based on prior knowledge of art history.
Using this Resource:
- Art History teachers will be interested in the foreign trade connections between Japan and Europe
- Visual arts teachers will be interested in the connections between art, cultural objects, everyday life, and history.
- Visual arts teachers will also be interested in comparisons between artworks in composition, style, and subject matter.
For relevant supplementary materials and classroom activities, refer to the PDF posted under Related Resources at the bottom of this page.
The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web resource—or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries—to look for other objects that will provide further insights into the relationship between words and images.
Created ByMFA School Programs