Japonism and Art Nouveau
Phases of Japonism in Western Decorative Art
- Masterworks from the Collection of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Japonism and Art Nouveau, Phases of Japonism in Western Decorative Art - Masterworks from the Collection of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Japonism and Art Nouveau
Phases of Japonism in Western Decorative Art
- Masterworks from the Collection of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we would like to request that you reserve the date and time of your visit in advance from our reservation website.

  • The admission fee is to be paid upon your visit.
  • We are not accepting reservations by phone or at the museum reception.

General Information

October 9 - December 19, 2021
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (Admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on November 5 and December 3.
Wednesdays (Except for November 3)
Adults: ¥1,000
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥900
Students (College): ¥700
Students (High / Middle school): ¥500
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger.
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, The Mainichi Newspapers
Embassy of Hungary, Liszt Hungarian Cultural Institute Tokyo, Minato City Board of Education
Lufthansa Cargo AG, Lufthansa German Airlines
Planning support
Art Impression Inc.

Exhibition overview

Crafts from Japan and China have long been viewed as objects of admiration in the West. In the fields of ceramic and glasswork in particular, Western artists have continually experimented with materials, forms, and ornamentation based on Japanese and Chinese models.

In the late 19th century, Japanese art works and crafts began to arrive in Europe, creating a craze for all things Japanese, and subsequently exerting an influence on Western crafts and design. The reopening of Japan in 1854, following a lengthy period of national isolation, spurred trade with the West, including the export of countless works of art and crafts intended to meet the demands of enthusiasts in Europe and America. This admiration for Japanese culture, and for Japan itself, led to the rise of the Japonism fad among Western artists and designers. This in turn exerted a significant influence on Art Nouveau, a style that was sweeping through Western countries in the late 19th century. And as with many other craft museums in Europe, since its opening in 1872, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts has actively collected Japanese crafts, such as lacquer ware and ceramics, along with Japonism-style works.

This exhibition examines how Japanese art was interpreted in the West, and how Japanese art and crafts influenced the West through a sampling of works dating from the final years of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Based on the themes of Japonism and Art Nouveau, the exhibition presents approximately 170 works (200 pieces) from the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts Collection. These include exemplary Hungarian works, including those produced by the Zsolnay Factory, and masterpieces by designers such as Émile Gallé and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Exhibition highlights

1.Tracing the development of Japonism and Art Nouveau in Western applied arts through the collection of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Japonism was a phenomenon in which a wide range of works influenced by Japanese arts and crafts came to be produced in Europe in the late 19th century, eventually becoming one of the primary sources of Art Nouveau. Practitioners of the applied arts studied Japanese decorative techniques, beginning by copying images, and learning and exploring the observation of nature and the effects of materials that underlie the charm of Japanese arts and crafts. This exhibition presents numerous outstanding works that exemplify these aspects of Japonism.

2. Masterworks from Mintons Ltd., Émile Gallé, the Daum Brothers, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Bigot Cie., the Royal Porcelain Factory, Berlin and elsewhere

This exhibition features works from the internationally renowned Art Nouveau section of the Ceramics and Glass Collection at the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts. Many of these were acquired as contemporary masterworks of their day, such as those purchased directly from artists and workshops in the late 19th and early 20th century and those purchased at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. The works presented here include those shown in public for the first time since they were acquired, and centerpieces of the museum’s collection that are the subject of constant loan requests from institutions around the world.

3. Numerous masterworks from renowned Hungarian ceramic manufacturers the Zsolnay Factory

48 works (56 pieces) from the Zsolnay Factory, one of the most important producers of Hungarian Art Nouveau, will be on view. Viewers can experience the wonders of Zsolnay through a wide range of works, including those featuring their original eosin glaze, as well as other materials and decorative techniques such as a Faience Fine tea set, a crystalline glazed jar, a stoneware pitcher and more.

About the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

The Budapest Museum of Applied Arts was founded in 1872 following the establishment of similar museums in London, Vienna and Berlin, and from the start collected contemporary and historical works of applied art from many nations and eras. It initially housed a historical collection, consisting of antiques from around the world transferred from the Hungarian National Museum, and a contemporary collection, built up from purchases at World’s Fairs (the Vienna World’s Fair of 1873, the Paris World’s Fairs of 1878 and 1889) and gifts from companies (the Herend Porcelain Manufactory, the Zsolnay Factory). A new museum building designed by Ödön Lechner opened in 1896, with its opening event, marking the end of Hungary’s Millennium celebrations, attended by Franz Joseph I, Monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Thanks to their extensive contacts both in Hungary and abroad, Museum’s first two directors, György Ráth (1828–1905) and Jenő Radisics (1856–1917) were able to greatly expand the museum’s collection of world-class applied arts, and the foundations of its Art Nouveau collection were laid primarily through purchases at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900 and at the Christmas exhibitions held in the Museum each year. Additions to the collections since the 1950s have mainly consisted of works by contemporary Hungarian artists. The Museum of Applied Arts is currently in the midst of large-scale renovations, after which it is scheduled to reopen as one of the most fascinating and enchanting museums in central Europe.

The Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Chapter 1
From Historicism to Japonism

The first chapter of the exhibition introduces early examples of Japonism, which were among the most strongly Japanese-influenced works of art ever made in Europe. They are characterized by a Japanese-style approach to the decorative, use of line, flatness, and bold compositions. On the other hand, the pursuit of the beauty in the accidental cannot yet be seen, and in these finished products that are virtually perfect embodiments of their original designs, the stance of maintaining a certain distance from the subject being rendered, and the exacting preliminary calculation of decorative effects, connect these works to historicism in the context of Western artistic styles.

Vase with chrysanthemums, Émile Gallé, ca. 1896, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Chapter 2
Far Eastern Influences – Shapes and Surfaces

In traditional Western ceramics, the glazes and pigments that coat a piece of pottery are blended separately to suit each decorative element, and works with a high degree of polish and perfection are admired. On the other hand, in East Asia, conditions for achieving the artistic effect of a particular glaze are established, but the unexpected situations and accidents that occur during firing leave scope for creative freedom. Inspired by East Asian ceramics, in the pursuit of unique and extraordinary shades, many European artisans experimented with and succeeded in mixing various glazes, combining colors and patterns, and employing glazes that produce luminous and stunning effects. This chapter features works characterized by distinctive surface decoration.

Ornamental vessel with crystal glaze, Zsolnay Factory, 1902, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Chapter 3
Art Nouveau – The Golden Age of Japonism

At the height of its popularity, works of Japonism emerged one after another in fields such as literature, painting, graphics, and the applied arts, and related ideas and artistic techniques were linked to the Aesthetic Movement in Western Europe. Eventually, Japonism became one of the key sources of Art Nouveau and its influence expanded to all areas of art. The numerous ceramic and glass works exhibited in this chapter are grouped into four thematic categories: flowers, brilliant surfaces, traditional decorative motifs, and birds and animals.

Peacock – ornamental vase, Louis Comfort Tiffany, before 1898, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Chapter 4
Japonism in Architecture – The Bigot Pavilion

Ceramic has been used for thousands of years as a building material for walls and roofs, or for ornamental tiles that cover walls. At the close of the 19th century, a new episode in this long history began. With the advent of mass production it became possible to manufacture larger-sized ceramic plates, and ceramic plates were made to decorate pillars, columns, arches, and attics and to cover walls, ornamenting the surfaces of reinforced concrete structures. The remarkably unique works of French ceramics shown in this chapter were part of the architectural décor of the so-called the Bigot Pavilion, designed and built by architect Jules Lavirotte for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, which won a Grand Prix at the fair and was subsequently purchased by the director of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts. Meanwhile, the Zsolnay Factory in Hungary was not only a world-class manufacturer of decorative art pieces, but also produced hundreds of architectural ornaments that were the creations of outstanding architects and sculptors. Also exhibited here are some of the frieze tiles that were among the many products of the Zsolnay Factory.

Frieze element with the figure of a bull – architectural ceramic – from the so-called Bigot Pavilion, Designed by Paul Jouve, Bigot & Cie., 1898-1900, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Chapter 5
Another Way of Art Nouveau – Jugendstil

There were two main currents in Art Nouveau, which is considered to have been Europe’s last universal artistic style. One was botanical or floral Art Nouveau, and the other was geometric Art Nouveau, also known as Jugendstil. The latter developed primarily in the German-speaking world and was characterized by right angles and geometric details, often with symmetrical and stylized plant-based motifs. The tea set exhibited in this chapter occupies the border between these two styles. Splendidly decorated with orchids, it features both botanical and geometric elements, and the influence of Japanese art can be seen the striped and latticed background patterns.

Vase with stylized floral decoration, KPM, Royal Porcelain Factory, ca. 1910, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Chapter 6
Japonism and Art Deco

This chapter features classic works of Art Deco, the style that gained popularity after Art Nouveau. In Art Deco, the botanical motifs of Art Nouveau evolved into something significantly more abstract. Crisply defined forms appeared, and color often played a crucial role. The opulent and elegant Art Deco style employed a large number of new materials. The works in this chapter show that the influence of Japan outlived Art Nouveau, as in a vessel in which a lovely pattern of thin gold leaf expands like a network of cracks between layers of glass. This highly modernist work was inspired by traditional makie (gold or silver powder-decorated) lacquerware from Japan.

Bowl with gold leaf between the layers, Daum Brothers, 1925-1930, the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts