Passion for the Exotic: Japonism explores the newfound influence of Japan on Western design in the late 19th century. A closed society until 1854, Japan ended its self-imposed isolation after American Commodore Matthew C. Perry led a fleet of armed steamships into Japanese ports and secured a trade treaty. Subsequently, Japanese exports such as metalwork, ivories, lacquerwork, woodblock prints, ceramics and textiles flooded the marketplace, providing inspiration with their wealth of distinctive decorative elements, many drawn from nature. As part of a broader interest in “exotic” cultures during the late 19th century, newly available Japanese design sources were soon joined by those of India to help create a European and American Aesthetic Movement.
Showcasing nearly 50 works from the permanent collection installed in the Teak Room, this focused exhibition celebrates the inspired dialogue between Western design and Japanese aesthetics. —Cooper Hewitt
Cover photo: courtesy of Cooper Hewitt