This thesis chronicles the development of Polish Japonisme between 1885 and 1939. It focuses mainly on painting and graphic arts, and selected aspects of photography, design and architecture. Appropriation from Japanese sources triggered the articulation of new visual and conceptual languages which helped forge new art and art educational paradigms that would define the modern age.
Starting with Polish fin-de-siècle Japonisme, it examines the role of Western European artistic centres, mainly Paris, in the initial dissemination of Japonisme in Poland, and considers the exceptional case of Julian Fałat, who had first-hand experience of Japan. The second phase of Polish Japonisme (1901-1918) was nourished on local, mostly Cracovian, infrastructure put in place by the ‘godfather’ of Polish Japonisme Feliks Manggha Jasieński. His pro-Japonisme agency is discussed at length. Considerable attention is given to the political incentive provided by the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, which rendered Japan as Poland’s ally against its Russian oppressor. The first two decades of the 20th century are regarded as the ‘Renaissance’ of Japonisme in Poland, and it is this part of the thesis that explores Japanese inspirations as manifested in the genres of portraiture, still life, landscape, representations of flora and fauna, erotic imagery, and caricature. Japonisme in graphic and applied graphic arts, including the poster, is also discussed.
The existence of the taste for Japanese art in the West after 1918 is less readily acknowledged than that of the preceding decades. The third phase of Polish Japonisme (1919-1939) helps challenge the tacit conviction that Japanese art stopped functioning as an inspirational force around 1918. This part of the thesis examines the nationalisation of heretofore private resources of Japanese art in Cracow and Warsaw, and the inauguration of official cultural exchange between Poland and Japan. Polish Japonisme within École de Paris, both before 1918 and thereafter, inspired mainly by the painting of Foujita Tsuguharu, is an entirely new contribution to the field. Although Japanese inspirations frequently appeared in Polish painting of the interwar period, it was the graphic arts that became most receptive to the Japanese aesthetic at that time. The thesis includes a case study of Leon Wyczółkowski’s interbellum Japonisme, and interprets it as patriotic transpositions of the work of Hiroshige and the Japanese genre of meisho-e. Japonisme in Polish design and architecture is addressed only in the context of the creation of Polish national style in design (1901-1939).
Art schools in Britain and America became important centres for Japonisme at the beginning of the 20th century. The thesis considers the case of Cracow Academy of Fine Arts, which due to radical changes introduced by its new director Julian Fałat, became an important centre for the dissemination of the taste for Japanese art in Poland