Dr Anna Basham

Partner - AHRC Fellow for the Forgotten Japonisme project


Wells Coates (Arch.) 10 Palace Gate, Kensington 1939. Photograph Anna Basham, October 2003

I was born and educated in the UK, but for long as I can remember I have been fascinated by East Asia. I trained as a fashion designer at Epsom School of Art and Design, now part of the University for the Creative Arts, where I specialised in knitwear design. I found inspiration in Japanese textile design, as I was intrigued by the use of space, subject matter and design repetition.

Unable to undertake a practiced based MA, I chose to look at others who had been inspired by Japan. I started my research in the Victorian heyday of Japonisme, by examining the work of Christopher Dresser, but quickly realised that the story of Japonisme did not end with the 19th century. I was certain that Japan had been an inspirational source on Art Deco and I sought to illustrate the significance of Japanese art and design in the development of Art Deco by examining the motifs, patterns, and design details present in British suburban housing of the 1920s and 1930s. I received an MA in Three Dimensional Design from the Kent Institute of Art and Design, Rochester, now also part of the University of the Creative Arts, for my dissertation: ‘The denial of influence: Japan and British Design 1919-1939’.

It was whilst researching for the MA project that I came across the architect-engineer, Wells Coates, who cited the traditional Japanese domestic dwelling as an inspirational source. Coates was a significant figure within the British modern movement, which prompted my first PhD research question: Was Japan an inspirational source for British modernism? I completed my PhD ‘From Victorian to Modernist: the changing perceptions of Japanese architecture encapsulated in Wells Coates’ Japonisme dovetailing East and West’ at the University of the Arts London in 2007.

On 1 October 2007 I became an AHRC Research Fellow for the project, Forgotten Japonisme: The Taste for Japanese Art in Britain and the USA 1920s-1950s. This three year, AHRC-funded project was awarded to Professor Toshio Watanabe, Director of the Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN), Chelsea College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London.

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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