THE OPENING OF JAPAN TO THE WEST

The opening of Japan to the West by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, U.S.N., profoundly affected the American imagination. In the summer of 1853, Perry presented Japanese ministers with a letter from President Fillmore seeking friendly relations; in 1854 the Treaty of Kanagawa confirmed the gesture.


"The Pagoda of Whampoa [China]." In Heine, Wilhelm. Graphic Scenes in the Japan Expedition. . . . printed in colors and tints by Sarony & Co. New York: G. P. Putnam & Company, 1856.

Pagoda of Whampoa [China].

Chinese ports, long open to Western trade, served as springboards to Perry's mission. Large format prints depicting scenes from the expedition were much in demand in the United States.


Taylor, Bayard. A Visit to India, China, and Japan, in the Year 1853. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1955.

A Visit to India, China, and Japan, in the Year 1853

America's most popular literary journalist accompanied the expedition and recorded the diplomatic tooing and froing by which Perry gained access to Japanese officials. The frontispiece engraving of a Japanese scene was produced from a photograph by Taylor.


Matthew Calbraith Perry. The Americans in Japan: An Abridgement of the Government Narrative of the U. S. Expedition to Japan, under Commodore Perry. By Robert Tomes. New York: D. Appleton, 1860.

The Americans in Japan

Accounts of the expedition, illustrated by Americans, sought to show how the naval officers and men were treated abroad. Given that Perry and his men stayed aboard ship during the long negotiations, the convivial scene here may have been more fanciful than real.


The Americans in Japan

American readers found the exotic paraphenalia of Japanese daily life a source of great fascination. Images like "Household Utensils" appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country as Perry's feats were discussed in the popular press and in formal accounts of the journey.


Walt Whitman. "A Broadway Pageant." In Walt Whitman's Drum-taps. New York, 1865.

The first  diplomatic mission of Japanese to the United States, 1860, was welcomed by a parade in Manhattan. Bystander Whitman published his poem in the next morning's newspaper. The poem was included in Whitman's Civil War collection.

Over sea, hither from Niphon,
Courteous princes of Asia, swart-cheek'd princes,
First comers, guests, two-sworded princes,
Lesson-giving princes. . . .
This day they ride through Manhattan.

The Nineteenth Century: Americans Look to the East:
American Interest in China
Percival Lowell and Lafcadio Hearn: Conduits of Japanese Culture
President Grant's Diplomatic Mission to Asia
The 1876 Centennial Exhibition
Whistler and Japanese Influence
Ernest Fenollosa: Scholar and Source

The Twentieth Century: American Modernists:
Oriental Aesthetics; Leo and Gertrude Stein
Harriet Monroe and the "Imagists"
Ezra Pound and Fenollosa
H.D., Amy Lowell and John Gould Fletcher
Katherine Anne Porter and Arthur Davison Ficke
Witter Bynner
Wallace Stevens
Eastern Themes and Modernist Theater; Eugene O'Neill
Thornton Wilder
William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore
E.E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein

Exhibition Introduction

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