(Lambourne 2005, 10).
A preoccupation with “the other” has always been of interest to the French. In Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes, written in the early 18th century, the French nearly fall over one another in order to gaze upon an Arab traveler in their country. One observer even exclaims,
“ Ah! Ah! Monsieur est Persan! C’est une chose bien extraordinaire! Comment peut-on être Persan!” (Hirch and Thompson 2006, 97).
In the second half of the 19th century after the ports of Japan opened, this is exactly what the primary French artists were exclaiming to themselves about the Japanese, “How can one be Japanese!” and in this quandary, they manifested Japonisme, an interest for things Japanese. Various Japanese artists’ works found their way into the hands and minds of French artists to forever change the course of art history and made a heavy impact upon their art from subject to form. Through the pictures of kimonos, illustrations of stereotypical samurai, or artistic styles derived from Japan’s art, Japanese inspiration had seeped into the brains of French artists, from Degas to Manet, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, just after Commodore Perry opened up the ports of Japan to the West in 1854 and impacted their artistic movements and compositions.
From the 1630’s to the 1850’s the ports of Japan were shut off from any Western invader, with the exception of the Dutch, until American Commodore Perry untied those binds. Between the years of 1633 and 1639 Iemitsu, the second shogun of the Tokugawa Era, launched an expulsion of Western people, ideas and products from Japan - an embrace of sakoku (Lambourne 2005, 7). He prohibited his Japanese citizens from traveling West of Korea or south of the Ryukyu Islands, restricted the export of weapons, and banned the spread of Christianity and travel of Catholics to Japan. Then, Iemitsu forbade Portuguese traders on... [continues]
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