Lectures
Lectures are held at the Methodist Church in Kingsbridge and on Zoom at 2:30pm normally on the last Wednesday of each month. They last for 1 - 1½ hours including a question and answer session at the end.
The Influence of Japanese Print on Western Painting
Scott Anderson      Wed 26th March 2014
  Until the mid-nineteenth century few people could find Japan on the map. In the late 1850’s a number of countries signed trade agreements and the International Exhibition of 1862 saw Japanese goods on display in London. Our March lecturer, Scott Anderson, argued that these links had a significant impact on art as well as commerce.
For many years art schools had taught students to aspire to the standards set by the Old Masters who had dominated their world with natural, traditional styles of painting. Japanese prints helped to open receptive eyes to the opportunity for escape from academic conventions, to appreciate the novelty of techniques used by a different and relatively unknown civilisation.
Away with perspective. Japanese prints were flat and two-dimensional, with pronounced lines and jagged scenery. They had the appearance of a cartoon, stylized, free from background clutter and using light with little shading. Subjects’ expressions were neutral, they looked at objects outside of the viewer’s field of vision and they were not necessarily placed in the centre of the frame. Colour was used somewhat arbitrarily: why not paint the tree trunks green, or have them in front of the picture, partially obscuring other subject matter? If perspective was of little importance, projection provided insights, Japanese prints sometimes taking an aerial view instead of the angle from the artist’s easel and folding chair. Barely concealed horizontal lines might divide sky, sea and garden.
Our lecturer went on to illustrate how these characteristics influenced the likes of Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Whistler, through to Klimt and Picasso. Japanese prints gave artists the licence to experiment and to scrap the rule book.