During the 1860s, Japanese art flowed into Europe as trade links were opened for the first time in 200 years. Examples of Japanese art were shown in galleries, stores and shops, and had a major impact on artists and designers in the West. They were interested in the use of vivid colour applied with flowing brush strokes, the use of black outline, cut-off composition and the use of asymmetry and flat space.
The influence of ukiyo-e prints can be seen in many artists’ work, including Degas, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. During the 1860’s Degas began collecting Japanese ukiyo-e prints, which gradually influenced his painting style. His figures are often placed asymmetrically and on a diagonal. His compositions are often cropped by the edge of the canvas.
Van Gogh was also influenced greatly by Japanese ukiyo-e. He drew with the reed pen, and attempted the Japanese concept of a community of artists mutually assisting one another.
Toulouse-Lautrec was fascinated too by the Japanese art he saw in Paris. Lautrec revolutionized the art of making posters by borrowing Japanese woodcut compositional devices. His style became bold, flat and full of movement as he experimented with lithographic techniques.