For centuries, artists have been drawn to and influenced by the splendors of the East. The term “Orient” has its roots in Latin and literally means “the East”. Typically, “the East” refers to China, Japan and Korea, and often India is included as well.
When I think about Eastern art, the phrase “less is more” comes to mind. The minimalism and elegance of traditional Japanese brush work and woodblock printing in the form of calligraphy, screens and landscapes, for example, has made its way into the work of Western artists of the past and present.
One doesn’t need to look far to find the mark that Japanese art has made on European and American artists. Monet, Degas, and van Gogh were all heavily influenced by Japanese imagery and techniques, a style which grew into an art movement known as Japonism, popular among European Impressionist painters in the late 1800s.
In America, artists such as James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt and Frank Lloyd Wright were also inspired by the work being done in the East. Frank Lloyd Wright was so enamored by Japanese woodblock prints that he collected them and dealt in them.
These woodblock prints which artists of the time found so attractive were characterized by bright washes of color, lack of shadow and no perspective. Common themes included flora and landscapes, with human subjects often de-emphasized or absent in the larger context and patterns of the natural world.
Whether it is evident in clean lines, delicate brushwork, intimate interior scenes or vast landscapes, the lure of the Eastern style continues to inform the work of Western artists with its combination of simplicity and the exotic, allowing us our own journey to the East, without having to leave the comfort of home.
Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.