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Anglo-Japanese Style

Toward the end of the nineteenth century,

Colonialism was broadening Europe's influence around the world, and in turn the influence of the rest of the world on Europe. The scramble for Africa is often the most readily identifiable period of the era, but there was another scramble to Asia. From the sixteenth century onwards, European powers had sought to capitalize on trade with the eastern world. The initial interest of expansion into the far east was China. Until 1870, China was the world's wealthiest nation. It's vast resources and unique culture were of tremendous interest to western society. However, the vast and diverse population of China made diplomatic relations with the country difficult. During this time, Japan had begun to open itself to the outside world. Japan, which had previously sought to shelter itself from outside influence, began to view the western world with envious eyes. This envy was of the west's technological advantages. The Japanese have long had a deep rooted sense of cultural individualism, and sought to retain their unique identity. Various invasion attempts over the century has solidified this sentiment, but America was successful in changing it by force. Commodore Perry's famous gunboat diplomacy coaxed Japan from isolation by bombarding Japanese ports until they agreed to permit foreign trade. Unlike China, Japan didn't fear western influence. Much the opposite, it embraced it. For centuries Japan had aspirations to become a great power. The rapid adoption of western commercial practices led Japan to become Asia's first industrial power, and began exporting its unique culture en mass. The world's foremost commercial power of the time was the United Kingdom, known then as the British Empire. Britain through the use of its vast navy and network of trade bases, literally controlled international trade. Japan's emergence as a "civilized" power became something of a fascination for the British people. Although, during this time there was a growing appreciation for and often a completely new awareness of Asian culture in general, the interest in Japan was particularly strong. The introduction of Japanese artistic styles into the western mainstream had a profound effect. Like modern cultural exchanges, this initial meshing of cultures produced new styles which embodied aspects of both originating schools of thought. Arguably, the first comprehensive meshing of east and west was known as Anglo-Japanese style. From the early 1870s to the end of the century this blending of styles stood as a reference point for the development of several western arts movements. Anglo-Japanese style developed at roughly the same time as the early Aesthetic Movement, and encompassed similar ideals. Japanese arts, particularly pottery, served as a style guide for the creation of new design patterns which followed Japanese adaptations of organic forms. This was a significant departure from the rigidness of western design styles, which were based upon symmetry and uniform style. Japanese artisans had long since embrace imperfection as a method of design, following the asymmetry of the natural world. Japanese commercial products, such as pottery, particular vases and china, were instrumental in carrying this design form. Anglo Japanese style directly influenced Art Noveau and to some degree the Aesthetics Movement. In time the blending of Japanese and Western styles became unrecognizable as unique style itself. The movement had given birth to new forms of design which we today often confuse as Art Nouveau.