Ukiyo-e prints could be found in Europe from at least 1795 at the Cabinet des Estampes at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. It was not until the 1850s, however, when trade between Japan and Europe began to flourish, that the craze for things Japanese began to crescendo.
The story goes that French printmaker Felix Bracquemond (1833-1914) encountered a picture-book by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) that arrived in France with a shipment of porcelain in the late 1850s. In 1859, a sourcebook by the potter and designer Eugene Collinot and Adalbert de Beaumont included Hokusai’s imagery.
By the early 1860s, French intellectuals such as Charles Baudelaire and Edmond de Goncourt began to take interest. And that most internationally recognizable Hokusai print, commonly called the “Great Wave,” has now come to stand allusively for the surge of European interest in Japanese printmaking that emerged from the latter half of the 19th century.