Exposition Universelle Paris, 1867
Japan under the Shoguns was isolated from the world for over 250 years, from the early 1600s — and then emerged into the world at just the right moment. The Universal Expo of Art and Industry (Paris World’s Fair) opened on the Champ de Mars, April 1, 1867 — a date that changed the art world and its painters forever.
Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo’s large private collections of Umiyo-e, wood block prints, included Hokusai and Hiroshige prints that Vincent later copied in oils and used as backgrounds in many of his indoor café scenes. Artists like Dégas and Mary Cassatt, Renoir, Bonnard, Pissaro, and Toulouse-Lautrec — and Monet’s designs for plantings and paintings of his own gardens, and Nympheas (water-lilies) — all were overwhelmingly influenced by Japan. Rodin owned a Van Gogh portrait of Père Tanguy with japonaiserie in the background, that is still in his Paris studio today!
To learn more about artists influenced by japonisme read the catalogue Monet, Gauguin, van Gogh … Japanese Inspiration from the Museum Folkwang.
The Columbian Exposition Chicago, 1893
This fabulous exposition (Chicago World’s Fair: ‘The White City’) was created to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of America. It inspired the City Beautiful movement throughout America, encouraging city planning and beautification. And it also inspired Frank Lloyd Wright (who visited the White City many times) to quit his day job, designing boring office buildings and prairie houses for an architectural firm, and to become…well: Frank Lloyd Wright! (To learn the fascinating history of the creation of the Columbian Exposition, read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.)