Manet, Edouard
Portrait d'Emile Zola 1868
Oil on canvas 57 1/2 x 44 7/8 in. (146 x 114 cm)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Crows in Snow c1700

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868)

Japonism ~ other cultures (primarily Western) incorporating Japanese art into their own art, like Orientalism

Historical background: in the 1850s, Admiral Perry busted open Japan and other East Asian countries, forcing them to trade with the West. Soon after, the Europeans started mining the Japanese culture.

What makes Manet’s Portrait of Emile Zola influenced by Japonism? It has elements of Japanese art (Japanese screen on the left, Japanese print on the right), and the painting itself has a slight tilt upwards, a flattening out of the image*.

  • This has nothing to do with the evolution of art history, i.e. Japan did not take the idea from 13th century European art and the West took it back; it was just a modern take on art. 
The reason why Emile Zola would want to be painted with Japanese art in the background is in order to appear worldly.

Whistler was a bit of a dandy. He was staying at a woman’s house while her husband was away when he painted the Peacock Room. The room’s gold-leafed panels and Japanese motifs are evidence of the Japanese influence.

dandy ~ a man who likes to dress up, is slightly effeminate, usually a connoisseur of expensive tastes

Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black has a more graphic design look: interlocking shapes, flat plane, not much volume.


James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903). 
The Peacock Room 1876—77.

James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903).
The Princess from the Land of Porcelain
La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, 1863-64, 
Oil on canvas, 199.9 x 116.1 cm. Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1903.91
James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903)
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother 1871
The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool, England. It was originally designed by a gifted interior architect named Thomas Jeckyll. To display Leyland's prized collection of Chinese porcelain to best advantage, Jeckyll constructed a lattice of intricately carved shelving and hung antique gilded leather on the walls. A painting by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) called La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine — or The Princess from the Land of Porcelain — occupied a place of honor above the fireplace.

In his patron's absence, Whistler was inspired to make bolder revisions. He covered the ceiling with Dutch metal, or imitation gold leaf, over which he painted a lush pattern of peacock feathers. He then gilded Jeckyll's walnut shelving and embellished the wooden shutters with four magnificently plumed peacocks.

Whistler wrote to Leyland that the dining room was "really alive with beauty — brilliant and gorgeous while at the same time delicate and refined to the last degree," boasting that the changes he had made were past imagining. "I assure you," he said, "you can have no more idea of the ensemble in its perfection gathered from what you last saw on the walls than you could have of a complete opera judging from a third finger exercise!" He urged Leyland not to return to London yet, since he did not want the room to be seen before every detail was perfect. 

Yet Whistler entertained visitors and amused the press in the lavishly decorated room, never thinking to ask permission of the owner of the house. His audacious behavior, coupled with a dispute over payment for the project, provoked a bitter quarrel between the painter and his patron. Leyland would not consent to pay the two thousand guineas that Whistler wanted: "I do not think you should have involved me in such a large expenditure without previously telling me of it," he wrote to the artist. Eventually Leyland agreed to half that amount, but he further insulted Whistler by writing his check in pounds, the currency of trade, when payment to artists and professionals was customarily made in guineas. A pound is worth twenty shillings and a guinea twenty-one, so the already offensive sum was also smaller than expected. 

Jeckyll had nearly completed his commission when he consulted Whistler — who was then working on decorations for the entrance hall of Leyland's house — about the color to paint the dining room shutters and doors. Concerned that the red roses on the leather hangings clashed with the colors in The Princess, Whistler volunteered to retouch the walls with traces of yellow. Leyland permitted Whistler to make that minor alteration and also to adorn the wainscoting and cornice with a "wave pattern" derived from the design on the leaded glass of the pantry door. Assuming the decoration of the room to be virtually complete, Leyland went back to his business in Liverpool. 
Perhaps in retaliation, Whistler took the liberty of coating Leyland's valuable leather with Prussian-blue paint and depicting a pair of peacocks aggressively confronting each other on the wall opposite The Princess. He used two shades of gold for the design and highlighted telling details in silver. Scattered at the feet of the angry bird are the coins (silver shillings) that Leyland refused to pay; the silver feathers on the peacock's throat allude to the ruffled shirts that Leyland always wore. The poor and affronted peacock has a silver crest feather that resembles the lock of white hair that curled above Whistler's forehead. To make sure that Leyland understood his point, Whistler called the mural of the fighting peacocks "Art and Money; or, The Story of the Room." He obtained a blue rug to complete the scheme and titled the room Harmony in Blue and Gold. After concluding his work in March 1877, the artist never saw the Peacock Room again. 

Despite the controversy surrounding its creation, Leyland kept his dining room as Whistler had left it and continued filling the shelves with porcelain until his death in 1892. Twelve years later the Peacock Room was removed from the Leyland house and exhibited in a London art gallery. Having recently acquired The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), who later founded the Freer Gallery of Art, purchased the Peacock Room in 1904. The room was again taken apart, and reinstalled in an addition to Freer's house in Detroit, where it was used for the display of his own collection of ceramics. Freer recognized the importance of the Peacock Room in understanding Whistler's style, and he also believed it to exemplify the spirit of universal beauty that informed his philosophy of collecting and united his holdings of Asian and American art. 

After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was transported to Washington, D.C. and installed in the new Freer Gallery of Art. By then, having been dismantled, moved, and reassembled three times, the room's physical structure had become highly unstable. Between 1947 and 1950 two Boston restorers, John and Richard Finlayson, carried out an extensive renovation: they remounted the wall hangings with wax on a new plywood framework, repaired the damaged ceiling, restored the cracked and buckled leather, and retouched or repainted many surfaces of the room. The Finlaysons seemed to have concentrated their efforts on the painted panels and disregarded the surrounding framework of wainscoting, even though Whistler himself had lavished attention on every inch of the decoration. Largely as a result of their selective restoration, the artist's subtle harmonies fell sadly out of tune.

Fortunately, Whistler's intricate patterns of color design were successfully retrieved during a recent conservation project. Using cleaning systems designed specifically for the task, a team of conservators gradually removed an accumulation of darkened varnish, dirt, and overpaint, leaving the original surfaces of the room untouched. The wooden wainscoting was revealed to be not murkey brown but greenish gold. And the dark, lusterless ceiling became vibrant with feather patterns spun across a shimmering golden ground. Once the conservation was complete, the dominant inspiration for the color scheme became clearly apparent: the coppery golds and brilliant blues and greens of Whistler's decoration resemble the iridescent markings of peacock feathers.

Harunobu, Suzuki (Japanese, 1725-1770)
Eight Views: The Evening Bell, woodblock print, published by Shokakudo


James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903).
The Princess from the Land of Porcelain
La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, 1863-64, 
Oil on canvas, 199.9 x 116.1 cm. Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1903.91

Mallet Vase with Ladies
porcelain with overglaze-polychrome decoration

Qing period (1662-1722)


James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903).
The Princess from the Land of Porcelain
La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, 1863-64, 
Oil on canvas, 199.9 x 116.1 cm. Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1903.91

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849): The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. woodblock print 9"x14"
 (From the series: Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji)

The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji), Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1831–33
Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849); Published by Eijudo
Polychrome ink and color on paper

10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm) (Oban size)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847)

The preeminence of this print—said to have inspired both Debussy's La Mer and Rilke's Der Berg—can be attributed, in addition to its sheer graphic beauty, to the compelling force of the contrast between the wave and the mountain. The turbulent wave seems to tower above the viewer, whereas the tiny stable pyramid of Mount Fuji sits in the distance. The eternal mountain is envisioned in a single moment frozen in time. Hokusai characteristically cast a traditional theme in a novel interpretation. In the traditional meisho-e (scene of a famous place), Mount Fuji was always the focus of the composition. Hokusai inventively inverted this formula and positioned a small Mount Fuji within the midst of a thundering seascape. Foundering among the great waves are three boats thought to be barges conveying fish from the southern islands of Edo. Thus a scene of everyday labor is grafted onto the seascape view of the mountain.  (Metropolitan Museum Website)

This is perhaps the single most famous of Hokusai's woodblock prints - perhaps of all Japanese prints. It belongs to the series 'Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji' (Fugaku sanj?rokkei).

The graceful snow-clad mountain stands out unperturbed against the deep blue of the horizon. Yet it is reduced to a tiny hillock compared with the towering strength of the wave which threatens to engulf the struggling boats. Such clever, playful manipulation of the composition is a feature of many of Hokusai's works.

This monumental series was the first to exploit the new chemical Berlin blue pigment, which had recently become cheaply available from China. It provided Hokusai with a strong blue for both sky and water and had the added advantage that it did not fade. Hokusai's series was so commercially successful that the publisher, Nishimuraya Eijud?, extended it with another ten prints, printed this time with black instead of blue outlines.

Several thousand impressions were taken of the design from the cherry-wood printing blocks, literally as many as the publisher could sell. This is a fine early impression, still with sharp outlines, which formerly belonged to the French collector René Druart (1888-1961)

Under the Wave, off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami-ura), also known as ‘The Great Wave’, is surely the most famous of all Japanese prints. It was designed by artist Katsushika Hokusai in around 1831 and issued as a popular colour woodblock print.

Although ‘The Great Wave’ is often seen as typically Japanese, in fact it mixes influences from both east and west. Hokusai’s imagination had been captured in his youth by his discovery of European-style perspective. Now, aged about seventy, he adapted European perspective in a very inventive way, playing games in the image between the relative sizes of the large storm wave in the foreground and tiny Mount Fuji in the distance.

Japanese prints such as 'The Great Wave' influenced Western artists such as Whistler, van Gogh and Monet. During the 20th century and beyond, the image has spread even more widely into popular culture and has been frequently replicated and adapted. It is even painted as a mural on a house in Camberwell, South London.

This is a unique opportunity to delve into the story behind this iconic work, learn how Hokusai made ‘The Great Wave’, and discover how the print has become a truly global inspiration.

Ando Hiroshige 
Dyers' Quarter, Kanda 
From From the folio 
"One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" 1857
Woodblock print 13 1/4 x 8 5/8 in. 
The Brooklyn Museum
Ando Hiroshige 
Ushimachi, Takanawa
From the folio 
"One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" 1857
Woodblock print 13 1/4 x 8 5/8 in. 
The Brooklyn Museum
Dyers' Quarter, Kanda, No. 75 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Long strips of freshly dyed cotton fabric hang from drying platforms erected high above dyers' shops in the Kanda district. Monogrammed fabric strips in the center dominate the composition. One bears the "fish" mark of the publisher of the series, Uoei, cleverly written so that it resembles the word for "we," pronounced "ue" and hence an abbreviation of "Uoei." The strips in the background bear the lozenge-shaped mark of Hiroshige; the inner shape reads "hi," the outer square "ro": "Hiro" [shige]. It is characteristic that the artist has placed himself behind his publisher—and that his personal mark appears only this once in the entire series.

    Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando), Japanese, 1797-1858
    Medium: Woodblock print
    Place Made: Japan
    Dates: 11th month of 1857
    Period: Edo Period, Ansei Era
    Dimensions: Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm) Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x 22.2 cm)  (show scale)
    Markings: Publisher: Shitaya Uo Ei
    Signature: Hiroshige-ga
    Collections:Asian Art
    Museum Location: This item is not on view
    Accession Number: 30.1478.75
    Credit Line: Gift of Anna Ferris
    Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
    Caption: Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando) (Japanese, 1797-1858). Dyers' Quarter, Kanda, No. 75 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 11th month of 1857. Woodblock print, Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.75
    Image: overall, 30.1478.75_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
    Catalogue Description: This autumn scene shows long strips of freshly dyed cotton fabric hanging from drying platforms above the dyers' shops in the Kanda district, with Mount Fuji in the distance. It is thought that this design might have been inspired by a similar print, "Fuji of the Dyers' Quarter" in Hokusai's "One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji" (Fugaku Hyakkei, vol. II), published more than two decades earlier. In the left corner are textiles with large patterns in brown and indigo, for the summer or the bath. The blue and white pattern in the center is not printed in the traditional indigo of the dyer but the imported Prussian blue of the printer. The fabric will be made into cotton strips to be used as towels and headbands, common gift items in the Edo period and even today. The strips in the foreground bear the "fish" mark of the publisher, Uoei, and the strips in the background bear the lozenge-shaped mark of Hiroshige himself. The title name, Kanda Kon'ya-cho, was a proper administrative name and a description of the principal trade conducted in this district. By the end of the Edo period, the dyeing profession was scattered all over the city and by 1854 only 47 of the 522 dyeing shops in the city were located in Kanda. However, dyeing flourished here into the early 1960's, and even today there are still some fabric firms in the area, which is located just east of the Japan National Railways Kanda Station.

Japanese Art

Foldable screens tie in with Japanese architecture. They’re used as a shield from the wind, to divide rooms into smaller units, or as decorative items.

The reason the birds in Crows in Winter tend to look like Disney’s crows is that in the Japanese culture, crows have a positive iconographic significance. They are gleaners, they pick up what’s left over. (In the Chinese culture, crows signify bad spirits.)

The Europeans’ method of printing thus far utilized methods of intaglio and lithography. The Japanese excelled in woodblock printing, in which the area you carve away shows up white, whereas what you leave behind is inked.

To make multi-colored prints, you carve the design for the lightest color first, make your prints, then reduce the same block for each successive darker color, adding layers of color to your prints. Or, to ensure you can make any unknown number of prints, you carve several blocks, one for each color.

Papermaking is considered a national treasure in Japan. There are various kinds of paper, including wood pulp mixed with rags and cotton paper. Rice paper, still used today, is best for printing on.

Themes for print designs were not very lofty, mostly of the floating world, e.g. Geishas.

Geisha ~ a hostess and entertainer who is highly cultured: skilled in the tea ceremony, is trained on a musical instrument, writes poetry, i.e. someone you want at a social gathering; not someone engaging in sex

As the Europeans adapted Japanese art, so Japanese artists incorporated European techniques. Eishi’s Evening under the Murmuring Pines begins to look more painterly, and Hiroshige’s Takanwa Ushimachi features sfumato and a horizon line.

painterly ~ appearing to have volume

The main subject of Hokusai’s The Great Wave and Kijikazawa is Mount Fuji. They represent two of the artist’s 36 views of Fuji. The idea of variations on theme is similar to Monet’s depictions of a "different" Rouen Cathedral with each change of light. In contrast though, Mount Fuji is shown as a stable image amidst the swirl of action, and all the different activities around it indicate that the mountain is a way of life. Thus Mount Fuji is an icon for importance and permanence. The important thing was not the physical depiction of an object, but the spiritual expression of the object.

Hokusai published a sketchbook that studied waves, wind, faces and poses (e.g. floating in water). It contained humor not found in his woodcuts.

The Japanese tea ceremony is a formalized choreography of making and presenting tea. Every sound means something. Everything has its place. The scroll painting on the wall is chosen to set the mood for the guest to contemplate. The flowers are set out for the guest’s enjoyment. Each implement has a story, even a personality. Some pieces are rough, others are highly polished. Not all pieces match, following Hideyoshi’s philosophy, "imperfection is beauty."

Hideyoshi was a Shogun who unified Japan. He tried to invade China. He then moved on to Korea, where he became enamored with the beautiful ceramics. He forced a large number of potters to Japan so they could produce rough pots there.

The tea is a powdered substance that you whip up. It is stored in no particularly recognizable jar. Why is there no standard for jars? Because everyone’s concept of beauty is different, not one type of jar is more beautiful than another.