Printmaking in the 1890s could never have flourished the way it did without the influence of Japanese colour woodblocks ukiyo-e.
There was a large-scale exhibition of prints of this kind at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1890, organised by the art dealer Siegfried Bing.
The avant-garde was fascinated by the exuberantly coloured works and for the first time in the history of European art, dived wholeheartedly into making colour prints.
The popularity of ukiyo-e was part of the phenomenon of japonisme — a term coined in 1872 by the critic Philippe Burty to describe the craze for all things Japanese.
All things Japan
In 1854, Japan opened its borders to foreign trade for the first time in 200 years.
Japanese prints and other artworks, household goods and ornaments flooded the Western market — a craze that the artist Henry Somm depicted in prints showing Parisiennes surrounded by Japanese objects.
All manner of publications were devoted to Japanese art and culture and as a result, artists began to collect Japanese prints.
The style and subject matter of Japanese art were an inexhaustible source for the development of modern, decorative printmaking.
Artists followed the example of their Japanese colleagues and began to use large expanses of colour, patterns, undulating lines, dark contours, diagonals, abrupt cropping and unusual compositions in their prints.
They were inspired by the everyday subjects found in ukiyo-e, such as close-ups of nature, street scenes and domestic interiors, as well as the way that Japanese printmakers produced series on a particular theme.
Colta Feller Ives, The Great Wave: The Influence of Japanese Woodcuts on French Prints, tent.cat., New York 1974
Gabriel P. Weisberg et al., Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French art, 1854-1910, tent.cat., Cleveland 1975
Yamada Chisaburō, Tatsuji Ōmori, Japonisme in Art. An International Symposium, Tokyo 1980