Piotr Splawski

Completed PhD - AHRC Studentship for the project Forgotten Japonisme


I was born and grew up in Poland. In 1994, I moved to London, which has been my home ever since. I studied English at the University of Gdańsk, Poland; Japanese (BA) and History of Art & Archaeology (MA) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. As part of my BA course I spent a year at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies in Japan. My MA was de facto a course in East Asian, especially Japanese, art history, whereas the final dissertation was a study of an Edo-period pictorial biography of the Zen Priest Dogen Kigen from the National Museum in Cracow, Poland. My interest in Japan, its art and Japonisme, started at SOAS, and has continued to develop.
It was my MA supervisor Dr John Carpenter, who directed my attention to Polish Japonisme. In 2007, I was awarded the AHRC PhD Studentship attached to the TrAIN project ‘Forgotten Japonisme: The Taste for Japanese Art in Britain and the USA, 1920s-1950s’. My doctoral research, led by Prof Toshio Watanabe, Dr Yuko Kikuchi and Rebecca Salter, looks at two secondary and relatively late brands of Japonisme: American and Polish (1890-1940). A special emphasis is given to the presence and significance of a taste for Japan in the art education at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts, as well as in the Japanese-inspired ‘synthetic’ approach to art pedagogy launched and practiced in the USA by Arthur Wesley Dow. Concentrating mainly on painting and graphic arts, I investigate how Japanese art and aesthetics continued to function as an inspirational force in the West beyond 1918 despite a significant shift in the political climate. Thus a secondary aim of this project is to provide an insight into the political nature of Japonisme and therefore Orientalism in general.

Related Projects

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    Forgotten Japonisme

    Led by TrAIN Director Professor Toshio Watanabe, Forgotten Japonisme was a major three year research project funded by the AHRC. Between October 2007 and October 2010, this project explored a previously neglected period in the study of Western attitudes towards Japanese art: from the 1920s to the 1950s.
    Find out more about Forgotten Japonisme

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