Hayashi Tadamasa was a prominent Paris-based art dealer in the Meiji period, who played a prominent role in the introduction of ukiyo-e to Europe, and thus in the impact of ukiyo-e upon Impressionism.
Hayashi originally traveled to Europe as a representative of the Meiji government to help coordinate Japan's presence at the 1878 Paris World's Fair. He then stayed in Paris, and opened a shop in 1883 which sold a variety of Japanese art objects and crafts products until 1905. He soon developed relationships with a number of the most prominent French artists of the day (or, at least, those most remembered and appreciated today). More than ten percent of Monet's personal collection of nearly 300 ukiyo-e woodblock prints bore either Hayashi's seals, or those of his close associate Wakai Oyaji (Kenzaburô); further, it was Hayashi who in 1892 gifted Monet the Japanese irises for his pond at Giverny, which appear in some of Monet's most famous paintings. Hayashi is also known to have attended an exclusive dinner in 1885 in celebration of a posthumous exhibition of Manet's work. In total, it's believed that more than 156,000 prints bear Hayashi's seal, along with over 9,000 volumes of illustrated books and nearly 850 painted screens and hanging scroll paintings.
Hayashi also played a key role in the careers of a number of prominent Japanese painters of his day. After Kuroda Seiki arrived in France as a law student in 1884, Hayashi, along with painter Yamamoto Hôsui, encouraged Kuroda into becoming a painter. Hayashi then also arranged for Kuroda to serve as interpreter for art student Fuji Masazô, on a visit to the teaching studio of Raphael Collin, another prominent French academic painter of the time who was also a patron of Hayashi's shop.
Though based in Paris for nearly his entire adult life, Hayashi traveled back to Japan on a number of occasions, and was actively involved in discussions and debates in the artistic circles in Tokyo. He was an active member of the Meiji Art Society, and in one particularly notable debate in 1890, argued against the opinion that Japan had already learned all it could (or all it needed) to from the West, and could now go forward using only the Western techniques already learned to continue the development of uniquely Japanese styles and modes of "modern" art. Hayashi also brought a large collection of European artworks back to Japan, with the intention of donating them to a Museum of Western Art that never materialized; in this way, he was influential not only in introducing Japanese art to Europe, but vice versa as well. He also kept Kuroda and other Japanese in Paris informed of debates going on in Tokyo, thus connecting them in to the discursive network of discussion.
- John Clark, Modernities of Japanese Art, Brill (2013), 150-151.
- Julie Nelson Davis, “Picturing the Floating World: Ukiyo-e in Context,” Rare Book School presentation, 8 July 2020.