Asian Art Museum

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October 29, 2015
Looking East

Japan Forever Altered Monet and Van Gogh. Here's How.

The Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh and Other Western Artists exhibit has ended. Please visit The Asian Art Museum for current exhibitions.


For almost two centuries, Japan was cut off from the rest of the world through a self-imposed isolation. However, in the 1850s Japan loosened their international trade restrictions, opening the country up to the rest of the world and setting off a craze, known as japonisme. The Asian Art Museum’s newest exhibition, “Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh and Other Western Artists,” explores this fascination and how it radically altered the course of Western art in the modern era. Here’s how “Looking East” allows us to look inside the world of these famous artists and what japonisme meant to them.

It Created a Renewed Version of Singular Beauty
“Looking East” features more than 170 artworks drawn from the acclaimed collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with masterpieces by the great Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin, among others which are organized into four thematic areas, tracing the impact of Japanese approaches to women, city life, nature and landscape.

Women Played an Integral Part in Japonisme
Featured in the Osher Gallery are artworks centered around the themes of women and city life. From exploring this gallery, you’ll learn that Western women played a role in japonisme as enthusiastic collectors, as models costumed in Japanese robes or posed in proximity to imported screens and vases, and as artists. Paintings of European beauties in imported kimonos signaled to viewers that the women were fashionable, yet also sensual beings.

Nature and Landscape Expanded Onto Artists’ Canvases
Nature-based motifs in prints, lacquerware and metal objects from Japan initiated creative new pathways in the Western decorative arts and introduced new subjects for a growing cadre of Western printmakers and photographers. Artists and collectors welcomed these references to nature, using them to revitalize domestic interiors and incorporating them into skillfully designed rooms. Other Japanese elements incorporated into the new Western styles were the repeated trees, trellises and grid-like structures that offered a new way of organizing landscape that was legible while also being decorative or symbolic.

“Looking East” is on display at the Asian Art Museum through Feb. 7, 2016. It’s the final stop on this exhibition’s international tour and your last chance to witness the iconic results of an invigorating cross-cultural moment.

Get your tickets today! Use promocode SFTRAVEL for a 20% discount off General Admission and Looking East.

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