Claude Oscar Monet painted the artwork entitled Camille Monet in Japanese Costume, also known as La Japonaise, in 1876. This portrait of large proportion was a challenging work for the painter to conclude but attracted considerable attention in the second exhibition organized by the Impressionist, called Salon des Refusés. The Impressionists formed a group of modern artists who went against the norms implied by the Classic Academies – who followed the teachings of artists of Ancient Greek and, consequently, the Renaissance.
During this time and place, to become successful in the artistic industry, the painter would have to be accepted into the prestigious exhibit of the Paris Salon. Since most painters that worked with modern aesthetic values and subjects in their artwork were not well seen by the Salon, they created an art show of their own, referring the name to the fact that they were rejected by the formal institution. As an opposition to the Classic references most European art was based upon, the Orient brought a new light of inspiration to the new generation.
The Japanese art was quite impactful to the Impressionists, mostly to Monet, as we can observe in La Japonaise. This life-size oil painting is a portrayal of the artist’s wife, Camille Doncieux, wearing a traditional red Japanese kimono with decorative leaves in embroidery, as well as a warrior-like character on the bottom. Camille became very ill during the year this painting was concluded and exhibited, sadly passing away in 1879. In this portrait, she wears a blond wig – emphasizing her non-Asian heritage – and holds a blue, white, and red folding fan, that can be a reference to the French flag.
Camille stands in a dull room, gray room with a patterned floor, which highlights the exuberant colors of her clothing, as well as the many fans hung on the wall. These traditional Japanese fans known as uchiwa are illustrated with images of birds, fish, landscapes, flowers, and women detailed in extraordinary vibrant colors. Monet also placed a couple of round fans on the floor to create unity in the composition. The attention to detail in the overall painting is impressive, and the costume grabs the viewer’s attention as it perfectly portrays every stitch and defines the texture of the fabrics – a characteristic Monet will move away from as his work becomes more Impressionistic.
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