To portray the beautiful, exotic and feminine land of cheap export : How Sweden imagined Japan during Japonism, from 1858 to 1914

Detta är en Master-uppsats från Uppsala universitet/Historiska institutionen

Sammanfattning: This master thesis explores the image of Japan in the artistic creations during Japonism in Sweden. Japan and Sweden first started trading in 1868 and knowledge about Japan in Sweden were limited at best. With the emergence of the Western art movement known as Japonism, ranging from 1858 to 1914, fascination for the unknown country grew in Europe. As the art movement Japonism became the first era of interest of Japan in Sweden, the portrayal and subsequent image of the country that emerged during this time is of interest to examine, as to better understand how Japan was imagined by Sweden. Herein, this study aims to analyse the portrayal of Japan in artworks from Swedish artists during Japonism in order to examine what components and ideas composed the image of Japan conveyed during Japonism. A collection of visual artworks depicting Japanese elements, based on Japonism associated artists and creators, have been collected using digital archives and databases to assess what is depicted and how by the creators. Japanese elements, such as objects, clothes, people and landscapes were subsequently analysed using a visual analysis based on researcher Jules David Prown’s three-step method of analysing historical objects. Using the concept of the image, as defined by scholar Torsten Burgman, as the basis of the analysis the depictions of Japanese elements are examined and categorised into several larger and smaller components. The examination is conducted within a framework of ethnocentrism and orientalism to contextualise the image of Japan with the thought structures in 19th century Sweden, as the creators portrayed Japan from both a Swedish and Western Eurocentric colonial perspective. As the source material is artistic depictions, an additional aesthetic framework was applied to contextualise the image of Japan with its artistic medium. Four major image components were found in the material: Japan presented as a commodity; Japanese things as something feminine; Japan as something faraway and exotic, contrasting the West; and Japan as a reference or commentary on the ongoing Japonism movement. The image of Japan found in these depictions of Swedish Japonism was a Eurocentric and ethnocentric understanding of the country. Japan and Japanese things, were imagined as something exotic and beautiful, and usually conveyed as exotic commercial flair for Western women.

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