This type of decorative production was met with fascination as well as scepticism. Munthe’s lack of perspectives and details, his primitivism, the total absence of realism in his designs and his disregard for how things ‘really’ looked puzzled people. Halen points out the comments of Jens Thiis, art student and critic:
Designer and painter Gerhard Munthe was the artist perhaps most con-scious of Japanese styles as a source of inspiration. He cultivated and developed it in a number of works.18 As a leader of the decorative or aesthetic movement in Norway, Munthe was deeply fascinated by Japanese decorative designs.
Both van Gogh and Gauguin used ukiyo-e-techniques, which defied traditional con¬ventions. The idea was to create a two-dimensional, not three-dimensional painting, for instance a body in one colour, set against a background in a contrasting colour.
Japonism as an aesthetic impulse for the fine arts was allpervading and far more penetrating than the exotic movement it succeeded: the chinoi- serie that had impacted on European taste in the preceding centuries.
As the Japan craze caught on in late nineteenth century France, the kimono found its way into every fashionable wardrobe. This garment, or variations around it, became a popular theme to depict in a number of ways.
However, for the most brilliant European painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it was the work of a number of Japanese artists, first and foremost Hokusai’s manifold Edo-sketches, that led to the pervasive Japan cult, not the preservationist attempts of Okakura,
By the 1880s, the Japanese influence had become so common that it was difficult to identify the direct effects on the various artists. However, the source of inspiration for all this artistic fascination, the actual country remained shrouded in a cloud of mystery. Few Westerners actually went to Japan.
Two Japanese artists proved particularly significant for the cultural encounter with Europe in the nineteenth century: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858). Hokusai produced a series of sketches from life in Edo Japan (1603-1868), in a multivolume catalogue called Manga.
Manga is a kind of comics, disposable mass literature, which come in the form of periodicals and serials in episodes, produced in paperbacks and sold everywhere – at newsstands, in convenience stores, in serious bookstores, or in vending machines
While Japanese contributions to popular culture globally over the past two decades have been undeniable and increasing, the aesthetic cult known as Japonism, derived from the French Japonisme, fascinated a number of art critics and scholars, particularly in France, in the late nineteenth