West Meets East

Western paintings included in the collections of the National Museum of Asian Art illuminate the important exchange of ideas between traditions that continues to this day. James McNeil Whistler painted women in kimonos, and the titles of his works reveal that he was rethinking ideas about painting. Heavily influenced by Eastern aesthetics, his work became more abstract at a time when realism was the accepted form in the West.

This exchange of influences can be seen in Smithsonian collections through all of the arts—visual, written, performance. Design crazes for Chinoiserie and Japonisme objects may have carried ideas and concepts to the Western public, revealing an enduring, if not always accurate, interest in Asia. You can find many examples in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collections. Works by American artists of Asian heritage can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Hirshhorn, and National Portrait Gallery collections.