Arthur Wesley Dow (American, 1857–1922), The Long Road--Argilla Road, Ipswich, 1898, Color woodcut on paper, 10.8 x 17.9 cm, Alfred T. White Fund, Brooklyn Museum.

The Influence of Japonisme on American Graphic Design

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Luce Visible Storage,
Study Center
Japonisme in American Graphic Art, 1880-1920
April 16-August 3, 2008

Featuring more than 25 rarely seen works on paper from the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection, this exhibition explores the impact of Japanese art on the graphic arts of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period, Americans were avidly discovering, studying, and collecting the arts of Japan. Artists were particularly fascinated by these exotic objects and found in them inspiration for revitalizing Western pictorial traditions. James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Robert Blum, Winslow Homer, Arthur Wesley Dow, and others began incorporating Japanese motifs, aesthetic principles, and techniques into their own art--a phenomenon known by the French term "Japonisme."

Japonisme in American Graphic Art, 1880-1920 examines myriad manifestations of Japonisme in a selection of fine etchings, lithographs, watercolors, pastels, and other graphic media created by American artists. James McNeill Whistler, for example, created compositions with dramatic contrasts of blank and filled areas and subtle atmospheric effects. His brand of aesthetics influenced many younger Americans, including Joseph Pennell and Robert Blum. Mary Cassatt was inspired by Japanese prints to create some of her most formally and technically daring color etchings characterized by flattened figures, unmodulated planes of color, and strong linear design. Some artists had an even more direct engagement with the art of Japan. Both Bertha Lum and Helen Hyde spent years living in Japan and studying traditional printing techniques. Their woodcuts were immensely popular during their lifetimes and helped to familiarize American audiences with Japanese styles and subjects.

This exhibition also includes several examples of Japanese art in order to illustrate the characteristics that American artists found so appealing in this art. Japonisme in American Graphic Art, 1880-1920 complements the special exhibition Utagawa: Masters of the Japanese Print, 1770-1900 on view March 21-June 15, 2008.

Japonisme in American Graphic Art, 1880-1920 is organized by Karen Sherry, Assistant Curator of American Art.


Bertha Lum (American, 1879–1954), On the River, 1913, Woodcut in color, 26 x 44.9 cm, Gift of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Brooklyn Museum.

Charles Caryl Coleman (American, 1840–1928), View of Vesuvius: Effect 11:25 A.M.,1913, Pastel on grey-blue wove paper mounted overall to an 1/8" acidic board, 61.4 x 45.6 cm, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, Brooklyn Museum.


Helen Hyde (American, 1868-1919), White Peacock, 1914, Woodblock print, 21 x 25.4 cm, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Peter P. Pessutti, Brooklyn Museum.