I personally have been obsessed with Japanese aesthetics since I can remember. When I was in college I remember learning about the Asian influence in European visual arts and how popular the "exotic" themes became at the turn of the century. I loved the outfitting of French ladies in Japanese clothing with stylized artifacts to recreate a setting. My Impressionist Art professor Willy Montero would say the significant influence of the Uu-key-yo-e is essential to understanding the whole period. The Ukiyo-e also known as the Japanese wood block, pretty much circulated as a post card of Japanese imagery. Artists such as James McNeill Whistler to Vincent Van Gogh to Edward Manet had all seen and studied Japanese aesthetic through such memorabilia.
In studying design it's interesting to see here too the strength of Japanese influence. French designer and architect Charlotte Perriand was very inspired by Japanese proportions and the use of the tatami mat as a standard measure, Charles and Ray Eames were influenced with their low living lifestyle series of chairs and tables. Anyways, I digress to reach the point that in many cultures around the world, Japanese aesthetics, have been extremely influential. This influence has resonated particularly in my other aesthetic favorite: Scandinavian design.
I always thought I simply enjoyed both Japanese and Scandinavian design just the same due to their clean line, use of natural materials, mute color tones and inspiration in nature. It's so much more than that and dates even further back than mid twentieth century design. The exhibition Japanomania finally sheds lots of light on a whole era of Japanese influence in the Nordic countries. The survey of art and artifacts carefully depicts inspirations in the fields of painting, textile, ceramics and furniture dating from 1875 to 1918. An era that developed right after the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1867 from which Japonisme began to spread. It is said that there has been no other influence in European visual arts that is as encompassing nor as long lasting as Japonisme.
The exhibition was co-curated by the Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. It will also travel to Copenhagen in 2017. It's quite shocking to know that never before had these influences been researched beyond the individual artist cases. The exhibition is an impressive overall picture of the times. It's such a privilege for this traveling exhibition to be available for the Nords. For those who can't see the show personally, the exhibition catalog in English contains images on all the contents of the show and more so. It is available through Yale University Press and I highly recommend for any design obsessed.