As I studied the impressionist artists of the late 1800s to prepare to give tours of the current French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, one of the things that fascinated me was how many of the impressionist painters were influenced by Japanese art. In 1854 Japanese ports opened to trade with the west and Japanese items began coming into France. A shop near the Louvre called Le Porte Chinoise sold all kinds of Japanese items. In 1867 Japan held an art exhibition in Paris and Japanese woodblock prints became all the rage. Two pieces in the current French moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery illustrate this Japanese influence. This is The Wave by Gustave Courbet. Many argue that Courbet was directly influenced by the print below.
Another artwork where the Japanese influence is clear is this one by Mary Cassatt. After Mary had seen the exhibition of Japanese color woodcuts in Paris in 1890 she was inspired to make ten prints of her own using the aquatint technique. The Letter was one of them.
Many other French painters were also influenced by the Japanese printmakers, including Monet, Manet and Degas. It is just one of many interesting aspects of the work currently on display at the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.