This book examines the history and context of Western conceptions of Japanese art and of Japan during the time period from roughly 1860–1960, a time far removed from the culturally aware climate of 2017, and in which questions of cultural appropriation were nearly nonexistent; the more important questions revolved around who in the West could claim patronage of Japan, and who deserved to be considered a japoniste. Christopher Reed does this by presenting three case studies: the case of the Goncourt brothers in France beginning in the 1860s, the case of the “bachelor Brahmins” of Boston beginning around 1890, and the case of Mark Tobey, whose story of japonisme starts around the 1920s.

Beginning this chronological trail of Japanism is the concern over who founded the idea of japonisme in the first place. Reed's assertion that the Goncourt brothers were the first to embody japonisme is at odds with...

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