Critical Thinking (“JAPONISM”)

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Watch the video before answering questions.

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One of the concepts introduced in this week’s materials was “Japonism” (or sometimes written in French as Japonisme)…

  • What is Japonism? Provide a working definition in your own words.
  • Why were 19th Century Western artists interested in adopting the formal style and methods of the East and, specifically, Japan? How did this intersect with their larger interests of breaking away from Classical art traditions and creating a new kind of “Modern” art?
  • Using the two examples below, highlight some specific formal features (including medium) that reveal these artists’ interest in Japanese art:

Édouard Manet, “Portrait of Émile Zola” (1868, French Realism, oil on canvas)

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-and-

Mary Cassatt,”The Letter” (1890-91, American/French Impressionism, drypoint, softground etching, and aquatint print on paper)

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  • In what ways was this Japonism trend problematic? In other words: do you think this is a case of mere “cultural appreciation” or is this a case of “cultural appropriation”? How does the larger history of interactions between the West and the East, and the West’s ideas about “the exotic Orient” complicate this trend?

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