TrAIN Open Lecture - Examining Forgotten Japonisme: Process and outcome of a three-year research project’

Open Lecture


Professor Toshio Watanabe |‘Examining Forgotten Japonisme: Process and outcome of a three-year research project’

In 2007 the TrAIN Research Centre was awarded a three-year research grant by the AHRC for the project ‘Forgotten Japonisme: Taste for Japanese Art in Britain and the USA 1920s – 1950s’. This project started with a question of what happened between the classic period of Japonisme (mid-19th to early 20th century) and what might be called high-tech Japonisme of 1960s and after. Our team identified already at the start that the Folk Crafts (Mingei) Movement and the Modernist Interior Design were two areas where a continuous impact could be discerned for the period of 1920s to 1950s. Were these exceptions or can we find other areas where Japanese art made an impact? If so, who were the bearers of this taste? Can we still call these phenomena as Japonisme? This talk will report back on the process and outcome of the project focusing on how our perceptions changed from our initial assumptions to what we concluded after a three-year investigation. Some case studies, such as Japanese gardens in the USA, will also be discussed.

Professor Toshio Watanabe
Studied at the Universities of Sophia (in Tokyo), Tokyo, London and Basel, where he completed his PhD. Director of the Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN). He is an art historian, studying mostly the period 1850-1950, and has worked in the field of transnational art involving Japan and other countries. Current research interests include modern Japanese garden in transnational context, historiography of Japanese art history and Japonisme. Publications include High Victorian Japonisme (1991. Winner of the Prize of the Society for the Study of Japonisme), Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue 1850-1930 (1991, Japanese edition 1992, co-edited), and Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for art, art for life, (1997, Winner of 1998 Japan Festival Prize and of 1999 Gesner Gold Award). Currently President of the Japan Art History Forum (USA), member of the Bureau of the International Committee of Art History (CIHA) and Chair of CIHA-UK Committee. He was also Chair of the Association of Art Historians (1998-2001) and member of the Tate Britain Council (2002-2005).


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