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The Artist’s Fan

In the mid-1800s, after a long period of isolation, Japan recommenced trading with the West, ushering in a craze for all things Japanese. In France, japonisme inspired a number of painters to embrace the artistic potential of the folding fan and the compositional challenge posed by its semicircular shape. Among these was Degas, who even lobbied for a room at the 1879 Impressionist exhibition to be devoted to fans; although that didn’t happen, no fewer than 21 fans appeared in the show. Perhaps the most prolific practitioner of this fashionable art form was the printmaker Henri Guérard, a close friend of Edouard Manet. Henri Guérard and the Phenomenon of the Artist’s Fan in France, 1875–1900 presents 44 Japanese and French fans and related works of art. While Guérard is likely to be a discovery for many museum-goers, such familiar names as Gauguin and Pissarro are also represented.