Celebrating the exhibition Passion for the Exotic: Japonism, this lecture examines the historical context of the Japanese influence on European and American design at the turn of the twentieth century, highlighting important museum exhibitions, dealers and collectors of Japanese works that exposed Eastern art and design to Western eyes. In 1853, American Commodore Matthew C. Perry forced Japan’s ruling body, the Tokugawa shogunate, to open Japan to trade relations with the West after nearly 250 years of isolation. A period of rapid change followed and, as the country modernized, old Samurai families and temples were forced to sell their treasures to survive, resulting in lacquers, fans, textiles, bronzes, and ceramics arriving in Western countries.

Béatrice Quette, Curator of the Asian Collections, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, looks at the design objects and art that fueled the West’s enthusiasm for Japan, provided fresh inspiration for contemporary artists and craftsmen, and gave rise to the movement known as Japonism, with its new ornamental grammar built from Japanese motifs and materials.

The Enid and Lester Morse Historic Design Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mr.s Lester S. Morse, Jr.