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Putting Cultural Customs on the “Line”: Félix Régamey, Japonisme, and National Art Education
by Shana Cooperstein

En garde! When the French artist and drawing instructor Félix Élie Régamey (1844–1907) had the opportunity to visit the studio of the famed Japanese painter Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831–89) in 1876, the two men engaged in a duel.‍[1] This was no ordinary contest. Far from a confrontation arranged between opposing parties sporting plastrons (breastplates) and wielding deadly weapons, the men were “armed” with the tools of their trade: pencil, paper, ink, and watercolor. Rather than fight au premier sang (to first blood), they raced to produce each other’s likeness (figs. 1, 2). Today, the sketches from this “face-off” survive as reproductions in Promenades japonaises (Japanese Promenades; 1878, 1880), a two-volume text written by the French industrialist and collector Émile Guimet and illustrated by Régamey that recounts their journey to Japan.‍[2]

figure 1
Fig. 1, Kawanabe Kyōsai, Régamey peint par Kiosai (Régamey Painted by Kyosai), 1876. Ink and watercolor on paper. Published in Émile Guimet and Félix Régamey, Promenades japonaises: Tokio-Nikko (Japanese Promenades: Tokyo-Nikko) (Paris: C. Charpentier, 1880), n.p. (In the book, this image was printed vertically.)
figure 2
Fig. 2, Félix Régamey, Kiosai dessiné par Régamey (Kyosai Drawn by Régamey), 1876. Pencil on paper. Published in Émile Guimet and Félix Régamey, Promenades japonaises: Tokio-Nikko (Japanese Promenades: Tokyo-Nikko) (Paris: C. Charpentier, 1880), n.p.

Régamey and Kyōsai were well-matched adversaries for a portrait duel. Both men were professionally trained artists who emphasized working directly from nature, as opposed to strictly upholding seasoned conventions based on the artistic precedents of their individual countries. Within their respective milieux, they each made important contributions to discourses on artistic pedagogy and, coincidentally, valorized drawing regimens grounded in the training of visual memory.‍[3] These similarities in position and approach, however, are eclipsed by the stylistic differences between their respective portraits, which evince how drawing “from nature” was inflected with learned cultural conventions and norms.

Kyōsai’s portrait of Régamey, for instance, was made “from life” using flat, mostly unmodulated watercolors sinuously outlined with bold, dark ink. To capture Régamey’s informal comportment, Kyōsai portrayed the French artist seated upright with his legs extended before him, bent at the knees so that the soles of his feet press firmly against the ground. Régamey is set in a nondescript space sporting dark, loose-fitting trousers and an oversized, olive-colored jacket, the extra fabric of which appears pooled behind his buttocks. His inclined lap casually functions as a makeshift drawing board, shouldering a sheet of paper steadied by his left hand. While Kyōsai obscured the work done by his opponent’s right hand, Régamey appears simultaneously in the act of drawing.

Régamey, like Kyōsai, depicted his opponent in a sketchy manner in an undefined setting and excluded the attributes of his craft.‍[4] Régamey diverged from—what was considered to be—the Japanese convention of encasing flat planes of color with thick, visible strokes of loosely applied ink. Instead, his depiction of Kyōsai conforms to the accepted standards of portraiture in the French tradition: executed with pencil on paper, Régamey portrayed Kyōsai’s bust in three-quarters view, carefully modeling his face using a variation of gray tones. Portraits of eminent Frenchmen usually assumed sober facial expressions to communicate the sitter’s seriousness and respectability, however. Régamey alternatively illustrates Kyōsai with a wide smile, revealing his overbite. This attests to his own ability to quickly sketch a grin, a facial expression that a model could only endure over a short period of time.

At first glance, the artists’ contest appears to be a gesture of mutual respect more than an act motivated by animus. When Guimet recounted the scene in his chapter titled “A Duel,” he described the competition as a great honor and declared no winner.‍[5] It would be wrong to assume that each man’s participation in the duel was entirely conciliatory. Régamey and Kyōsai’s encounter is arguably emblematic of the cultural frictions, particularly within the domains of art and industrial design, that emerged between France and Japan during the Second Empire (1852–70) and first few decades of the Third Republic (1870 until around 1914).‍[6] While much scholarly attention has focused on French admiration for Japanese art and culture, especially the popularity of Japanese prints, this admiration was more complicated than existing scholarship usually acknowledges.‍[7] Within a rapidly globalizing context, the fear of losing supremacy in the fine and applied arts became a viable threat to France’s ostensible superiority. When France’s hegemony came under threat, cultural exchanges between France and Japan led many artists, like Régamey, to adopt a host of seemingly incompatible feelings toward Japanese cultural production that ranged from admiration and respect to rivalry and antagonism. While Régamey earned a reputation as a Japoniste, a life-long enthusiast of Japanese culture, he also warned against the appropriation of “imported” technical procedures.‍[8] The duel, in this sense, can be understood as a provocative metaphor that embodies Régamey’s (and more broadly, France’s) complex relationship to Japan, a relationship based on mutual esteem and competition.

This contention emerged quite clearly when Régamey systematized a drawing method in a failed attempt to overthrow la méthode Guillaume (the Guillaume method, the first program instituted into French primary schools in the 1880s) at the turn of the century. In the second half of the nineteenth century, drawing served as a litmus test for a nation’s strength in a rapidly globalizing market for industrial design, the good taste and education of its people, and, in the case of France, its status as a cultural leader in the fine and applied arts. I argue that Régamey grappled with conflicting personal and professional commitments when he developed a new drawing system: first, his admiration for Japanese art and, second, the need to protect and cultivate a French national identity. He simultaneously attributed to Japanese sketches the very qualities he sought to teach French artists, notably speed of execution, visual economy, and the ability to represent fugitive moments, while conspicuously excluding “Japanese” practices from his method of instruction. This article, as a result, charts Régamey’s contributions to Japonisme and art education, focusing particular attention on moments when his expertise in each domain converged and were complicated by incompatible artistic and political agendas.

The stakes of this research are not limited to the politics of cultural exchange, however. Recuperating Régamey’s ideas about nationalized art pedagogy and the dangers of knowledge transfer between “national schools” has ramifications that extend to art history as a disciplinary practice. Régamey’s project to reform drawing pedagogy was not only motivated by his analysis of Japanese methods, but it was also informed by a desire to cultivate a shared aesthetic sensibility uniquely tailored to support French national identity. As such, he shared reciprocal concerns with proponents of Kunstwollen, a concept theorized by art historians in the 1890s and early twentieth century to explain culturally contingent stylistic developments. By 1901, for instance, Alois Riegl ultimately proposed an evolutionary theory of art that connected stylistic changes to supra-individual laws that operate independently of consciously formulated aesthetics. Régamey’s ideas about cultural exchange and education offer a contemporaneous alternative to (rather than a reaction against) Riegl’s model. The articulation of a distinct model could be attributed to Régamey’s professional identity: as a pedagogue, his entire position was predicated on the idea that through conscious effort (that pans out into unconscious predispositions), artists can intervene in aesthetic developments. In doing so, Régamey’s work hinges a formalist account of stylistic change to mechanistic, state-sanctioned interventions explicitly designed to drive civilization “forward.” His contributions to this discourse furthermore make a case for a “habitual” approach to art history, or the idea that the study of actions performed unconsciously and repeated over time could theorize the generation of a shared style.‍[9] This is part of a larger project that examines what it meant to be a proficient draftsman in the modern era and the role of habit acquisition within these discourses.

This article begins by surveying Régamey’s professional achievements, which remain absent in most English-language scholarship. I then attend to the complicated critical reception of Japanese art in mid-to-late nineteenth-century French discourses and examine how Japanese calligraphic practices and pedagogies shaped Régamey’s approach to the education of draftsmen. After outlining how Régamey’s own pedagogical program “drew” on—and departed from—his assessment of Japanese models, I contextualize his ideas alongside broader conceptions of stylistic change. To conclude, the focus turns toward the historiographical significance of Régamey’s work, especially as an alternate to the Kunstwollen model of stylistic change.

Régamey: Artist, Japoniste, Drawing Instructor
Over the course of his lifetime, Régamey not only acquired a reputation as a Japoniste, but he also pursued art education. He initially became a drawing professor at the École Spéciale de Dessin et de Mathématiques (School of Drawing and Mathematics) in Paris (now known as the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs [National School of Decorative Arts] and then nicknamed the Petite École) between 1868 and 1870.⁠‍[10] The Franco-Prussian War and the political turmoil that followed briefly interrupted Régamey’s work as an educator. During l’année terrible (the terrible year), he established Le Salut public (Public Safety), a revolutionary (and short-lived) newspaper devoted to the Committee of Public Safety of the Commune of Paris.‍[11] After the collapse of the Commune in 1871, Régamey’s status as a communard led to his forced exile from France. He sought political asylum, temporarily, in London, and then in the United States, where he helped to rebuild the Academy of Design, now known as the Art Institute of Chicago, after the Great Chicago Fire (1871) in 1873.⁠‍[12]

While residing in the United States, Régamey traveled to Philadelphia on the occasion of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. There, he met Guimet, who had also visited the world’s fair before embarking on a journey to survey Asian religions on behalf of the French minister of public instruction. Guimet invited Régamey to join the excursion and to document their travels across Japan to cities such as Yokohama, Kamakura, Nikkô, and Tokyo, the isles of Enoshima, Kyoto, Ise (a coastal city with Shinto shrines), as well as a short trip to Osaka and Kobe (on Osaka Bay), before traveling to China, Sri Lanka, and India.‍[13]

Following their trip, Guimet and Régamey published extensively on Japanese culture, above all the arts, theater, and daily life.‍[14]⁠ To fulfill the scope of the Guimet’s original mandate, which was to chart world religions in East Asia, they also participated in the exhibitions held at the Palais du Trocadéro (Trocadero Palace) in conjunction with the Exposition Universelle (Universal Exhibition) of 1878. The Palais du Trocadéro, also known then as the Musée Ethnographique des Missions Scientifique (Ethnographic Museum of Scientific Missions), was built that year under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Education as an anthropological museum. In 1878, three rooms of the Trocadéro were dedicated to the Exposition historique de l’art ancien et de l’ethnographie des peuples étrangers à l’Europe (Historical Exhibition of Ancient Art and Ethnography of Peoples Foreign to Europe).⁠‍[15] According to an article published in L’Illustration (Illustration), one of these rooms juxtaposed Asian religious objects acquired by Guimet (such as sculptures of Buddha) with paintings by Régamey that documented the men’s excursion east.‍[16] These included paintings that documented the religious rites and sites from across Asia and drawn studies of Japanese “types” (nameless busts against blank backgrounds; figs. 3, 4, 5).

figure 3
Fig. 3, Félix Régamey, Bonze de Colombo (Colombo Bonze), nineteenth century. Oil on canvas. Musée Guimet—Musée National des Arts Asiatiques, Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau.
figure 4
Fig. 4, Félix Régamey, Pont sacré et pont banal à Nikko (Nikko’s Sacred Bridge and Common Bridge), ca. 1876–78. Oil on canvas. Musée Guimet—Musée National des Arts Asiatiques, Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / Thierry Ollivier.
figure 5
Fig. 5, Félix Régamey, Jeune fille à Yamada (Young Girl in Yamada), nineteenth century. Drawing. Musée Guimet—Musée National des Arts Asiatiques, Paris. Photo © MNAAG, Paris, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier.

Shortly after his tour abroad, Régamey also showcased his drawing methods and contributions to Japonisme by organizing popular soirées de dessin (drawing soirees) in the 1880s. Soirées de dessin were a series of public lectures that took place at the home of Madame Edmond Adam and at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) and that were often dedicated to his memory of Japanese theater decades after his trip to Japan.‍[17] Today, little documentary evidence survives to account for each meeting’s content. From the traces that remain, it appears that at the soirées, Régamey executed ethnographic drawings without the aid of live models (a skill he acquired while training under the supervision of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, an instructor known for his system of visual memory training) while Guimet provided commentary.‍[18]

At this time, he also was employed as Inspecteur de l’Enseignement du Dessin (inspector of drawing education) in Paris (1881–ca. 1904).‍[19] By the end of the 1890s, Régamey was among the key figures agitating to reform la méthode Guillaume, a geometric drawing technique designed by the academician Eugène Guillaume and employed in French public schools to support industrialization. The belief that drawing was as important to education as reading, writing, and arithmetic was near ubiquitous and, as a result, led to contentious debates about the nature and scope of its pedagogy.‍[20] When Jules Ferry’s republican administration enacted reforms geared toward primary and secondary schools between 1878 and 1881, they included provisions to adopt the drawing regimen Guillaume systematized into official pedagogy. Guillaume’s procedures, known equally as la méthode Guillaume and la méthode géométrique (the geometric method), privileged descriptive geometry and incorporated clauses to stipulate practicing on geometric shapes and ornament before the human figure. His desire to forsake the dominance of figure study in favor of geometry flew in the face of the practices that other instructors, such as Félix Ravaisson, recommended. Whereas Ravaisson maintained that an artistic education grounded in classical statuary would benefit students in the fine and applied arts, Guillaume opposed this perspective, asserting the primacy and necessity of geometricized, industrial models to cultivate une langue universelle (a universal language).‍[21] Guillaume’s system held tenure in French public schools nationwide for thirty years, but its hegemony over drawing curriculum wavered soon after its introduction.

Geometry-based procedures were perceived as too rigid and formulaic, not to mention alien to the aims of “high” art.‍[22] Growing pressure for reform unfolded in the capital, spearheaded by Louis Guébin (1854–1933), a drawing professor who became the principal inspector of drawing in Parisian municipal schools in 1898.⁠‍[23] Guébin, alongside several other Parisian instructors (like Régamey), began debates in Le Moniteur du dessin (The Drawing Instructor), a journal founded in 1897 as a mouthpiece for their campaign.⁠ In the early twentieth century, the criticism mounted in this periodical acquired a wider platform at the Exposition Universelle (1900) and at congresses dedicated specifically to the state of drawing in public schools that took place in Paris (1900 and 1906), Bern (1904), and London (1908). It was against this cultural backdrop that Régamey designed a new drawing method in reaction to the status quo.

As early as 1890, Régamey began to lecture publicly on drawing education and, by the early twentieth century, he ran the Atelier d’Élèves (Students’ Studio) that operated at 28 rue Serpente in Paris with courses designed for boys and girls.⁠‍[24] This aspect of his career, though described by his close friends as a “vast project,” is excluded from existing scholarship, in part because his program was never incorporated into any official curriculum.⁠‍[25] In a eulogy commemorating Régamey shortly after his death in 1907, his close friend, the art critic Louis Vauxcelles, noted Régamey’s contributions to art pedagogy, especially Régamey’s rejection of geometric drawing methods.‍[26] The dependence on the mind, rather than the eye, was among Régamey’s chief complaints about Guillaume’s system: “The biggest mistake of the method which is held in high esteem in France today—the geometric method—is to privilege speculations of the mind at the expense of the visual organ, the eye.”⁠‍[27] Rather than test the eye, this system exhibited—to Régamey—a mechanical dependence on reason and mathematics.

figure 6
Fig. 6, Félix Régamey, Leçon d’écriture (Writing Lesson), n.d. Published in Félix Régamey, Le Japon pratique (Japan in Art and Industry: With a Glance at Japanese Manners and Customs) (Paris: J. Heizel et Cie, 1891), 238.

While Régamey made significant contributions to discourses devoted to Japonisme and art pedagogy in the second half of the nineteenth century, his role as a Japoniste has been treated in isolation from his pledge to reform drawing education at the end of the century. Régamey’s expertise as a drawing instructor did converge with his interest in Japanese art and culture on multiple occasions, however. For instance, he devoted some attention to artistic training in Le Japon pratique (Japan in Art and Industry; 1891), an illustrated guide to Japanese art and industry that also shed light on Japan’s ceremonial customs (ranging from birth and marriage, to funerals and theatre) and government.‍[28] The text likewise summarizes the transmission of craft knowledge between teacher and student, in this case, how Japanese children learned to write (a practice that he connected to drawing).⁠ Régamey’s enthusiasm for the perceived ubiquity of drawing skills in Japan rested on the assumption that Japanese drawing procedures hardly differed from their writing habits and preceded formal training.‍[29] In Le Japon pratique, Régamey included a supplementary image to illustrate the transmission of this skill set between mother and daughter (fig. 6).‍[30] In this work, the daughter sits in front of a table holding a brush perpendicular to paper; rather than work from a model, the mother crouches closely behind her student, guiding her wrist. His contributions to Japonisme and drawing instruction intersected with (and arguably culminated in) a prestigious state-sponsored initiative to evaluate Japanese drawing techniques in 1899.

Régamey and Comparative Drawing Pedagogy in Fin-de-Siècle France
More than two decades after his first trip to Japan, Régamey returned to Tokyo a second time in 1899 for three months (January–March) to draft a comprehensive study of Japanese drawing education on behalf of the French state, published as Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio (Drawing and Its Teaching in the Schools of Tokyo; 1899).‍[31] During the second half of the nineteenth century, comparative drawing pedagogy—the evaluation of distinct educational systems geared toward the fine and applied arts—became a major political preoccupation around the world. Drawing was considered foundational to competitive industrial design production. The allure of economic success in the applied arts became a major impetus for governments to introduce drawing instruction into public schools around the world.‍[32] Nationalized drawing curricula likewise featured prominently on the international stage, circulating widely in competitions at global fairs. The fin de siècle saw the emergence of conventions specifically devoted to drawing and art education in public schools, such as International Congress on Public Art in Brussels (1898) and the Third International Congress for the Development of Drawing and Art Teaching in London (1908). These events became forums for France to showcase its technical training and to gauge its supposed success via-à-vis examples displayed by other nations.

When Régamey received a commission to appraise Japanese pedagogy, he assessed the status of drawing instruction across divisions of formal learning in Tokyo and outlined the competing demands facing such institutions while they negotiated the place of Western practices within core curriculum. Such demands ranged from improving industrial design to cultivating national identity. The incentive to study Japan’s methods of drawing instruction emerged after it came to rival more industrialized nations in the applied arts by the end of the century.

That Japanese industrial design excelled in international commerce during this period was of great interest to France as it grappled with economic losses. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Japan relinquished its isolationist policy. To protect its feudal political system, Japan had enforced national seclusion (later referred to as sakoku, or “closed country”) for hundreds of years. In practice, this insular protocol tolerated some international trade; in fact, commerce with the Chinese and Dutch existed but was strictly regulated. In 1853, a small United States Navy fleet led by Commodore Matthew Perry entered Japan’s harbor to demand that the government sign a trade agreement that would allow US merchants to expand their operations. The Japanese capitulated. Shortly thereafter, the pressure inflicted on the Japanese government by this transaction eventually contributed to the demise of the shogunate, the ruling system led by a military dictator that had been enforced for two centuries.

In the first few years of the subsequent Meiji era (1868–1912), Japan underwent severe social transformations in line with the defining features of modernity. Modernization, which was typically conflated with “westernization,” characterized the new emperor’s regime. Among the many changes heralded by modernization was the deconstruction of the feudal class structure. Indeed, the term “Meiji,” or “enlightened rule,” refers to the name adopted by the emperor to describe his reign after the fall of the “great general,” known as the Tokugawa shogun. This led to the country’s emphasis on improved transportation systems, increased industrialization, and educational reforms. As part of Japan’s commitment to participate in global trade, the new government introduced policies geared toward the modernization of marketable commodities and their production, including the amelioration of applied arts through the dissemination of drawing pedagogy.‍[33]

Such abrupt social and economic changes led the government and educators to a decisive debate about what it meant to teach and acquire the technical proficiency for a career in the arts. By the time Régamey conducted his study, drawing methods had become a hotly contested subject among Japanese instructors, politicians, and artists. Much like the discussions that took place in France, the Japanese debated the utility of drawing regimens rooted in geometry, and the study of antique statuary and Renaissance masters at institutions ranging from public primary schools to art academies.‍[34] The stakes of this issue were complicated by the fact that foreign governments imported these systems to Japan.‍[35] Not long before Régamey’s first trip to Japan in 1876, drawing lessons were integrated into Meiji-era primary schools to improve applied art production. Like the laws proclaimed by Ferry a decade later that made primary education compulsory in France (and that included space for drawing instruction within its curriculum), primary school in Japan became obligatory in 1872 and likewise incorporated measures to train children in drawing.⁠‍[36] Making school mandatory was part of a wider trend, particularly in North America and Europe, that increasingly valued learning as a social right and crucial tool for nation building.‍[37]

Nearly thirty years after the formalization of drawing instruction across Japan, Régamey produced an illustrated inquiry of existing systems.⁠‍[38] Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, far from being an exhaustive analysis of art schools in Japan, focused on drawing courses deployed in Tokyo, which was newly minted as Japan’s capital in 1868. The decision to focus exclusively on drawing programs in Tokyo represented a major cultural shift that had recently taken place. The new imperial government transferred Japan’s seat of power from Kyoto to Tokyo and with it came a new capital of artistic production. The displacement of the artistic capital was matched by new modes of artistic training; in fact, the move was accompanied by the introduction of new art academies as an alternative to the apprenticeship model that had been perpetuated by the Kano school, the predominant style in place in Tokugawa Japan (1615–1868). Historically, technical skills were transmitted between master and pupil over nearly a decade of study in an artist’s studio.⁠‍[39] During the Meiji era, professional training in the arts diversified through the emergence of several new art academies. These include the inauguration of the short-lived Technical Fine Arts School (Kobu Bijutsu Gakkō) from 1876 to 1883, the Tokyo Fine Arts School (Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakkō) in 1889, and the founding of the Japan Art Institute (Nihon Bijutsu-in) in 1898.

It was indeed public education and the art school, rather than the artist’s workshop, that became the focus of Régamey’s attention in 1899. Organized by institution, he began his tour at the Imperial University (now known as the University of Tokyo), followed by the École Normale (the primary school, which was divided by gender) and the Lycée de Tokio (Tokyo Secondary School), as well as the École des Nobles (Nobles School, also divided by gender). His investigation—in which the Japanese titles of these institutions were not preserved and were instead translated into French—was not limited to general education, but also included specialized institutions, such as the École des Arts et Métiers (School of Arts and Crafts), the École Professionnelle Libre (Free Vocational School) for girls, the École Commerciale Supérieure (School of Business), the École Municipale Supérieure (Municipal School) for girls, and the École des Sourds-Muets et des Jeunes Aveugles (School for Deaf and Blind Children). His study concluded with the École Impériale des Beaux-Arts de Tokio (Fine Arts Academy of Tokyo) and the École Libre des Beaux-Arts de Tokio (Free/Public School of Fine Arts). Though Régamey focused on large institutions instead of artist-run workshops, his inquiry did not exclude Japanese methods of studio-based training. In fact, some academies retained those practices favored by the Kano painters, a group of artists trained in private workshops to support elite taste, or taught them alongside Western models. Régamey was careful to note discrepancies in teaching models that coexisted in Japan and saw value in multiple methods.‍[40] When Régamey studied Japanese art education, however, he expressed anxiety about the importation of foreign models to Japan and the influence of Western customs on Japanese culture more broadly.

The Politics of Artistic Exchange between Japan and the “West”
When Régamey published the results of his 1899 study on Japanese drawing programs, his central concern was the negotiation between traditional Japanese and imported “Western” visualization strategies. That some of the technical procedures deployed in Japanese classrooms were not indigenous to Japan generated anxiety about the possible loss of Japanese cultural customs for Japonistes like Régamey and Japanese citizens alike. The French admiration for Japanese art had in part stemmed from a perceived purity or authenticity of a culture supposedly “untouched” by the ills associated with Western society.

At the same time that Meiji-era Japan confronted the importation of North American and European customs, it also harkened back to its rich cultural traditions to renegotiate a new identity within a globalizing society.‍[41] This point has been explored in Victoria Weston’s Japanese Painting and National Identity: Okakura and His Circle (2004), which examines how late nineteenth-century Japanese art instruction became entangled in heated debates about nationalism and nation building. Whether or not Japanese public schools should adopt Western European and US models at the expense of their own traditions was a major issue fueling the discussion. As Weston explains, curricular reform exceeded the scope of primary education and had ramifications for professional artistic training. The ability to practice with Western artistic precedents, such as the valorization of human figure study and geometric drawing lessons, were among the newly accessible modes of training.‍[42] It was at this time that a new term was coined to distinguish between Japanese practices and those associated with the West, notably in oil painting: “Nihonga,” translated as “Japanese-style painting,” referred to a diversity of traditional Japanese artistic practices, including calligraphy and ink drawings that drew on Chinese conventions.⁠‍[43]

Régamey’s entire investigation is connected by a series of anecdotes that describe the ill-effects of westernization, which he referred to as “l’influence européene” (the European influence).‍[44] For instance, at the Lycée de Tokio, one of five preparatory schools for the Imperial University, Régamey witnessed the practice of what he referred to as “scientific” and “industrial” drawing caused by European influences, which “did not offer good results.⁠”‍[45] At the Imperial University, the introduction of European plaster casts likewise led to results that were hardly better, or as Régamey put it, “devoid of interest.”⁠‍[46]

Régamey’s position was not new. After Japan renounced isolationist policies, its diplomatic engagements with Europe and North America led to a discourse on the advantages and disadvantages of cultural exchange at home and abroad. “Japan does not have enough confidence in its own morals; it too quickly wiped its slate clean of the customs, institutions, and ideas that produced its strength and happiness,” claimed Guimet in 1880.‍[47] Guimet feared the fragility of national customs; this was not an unusual perspective to adopt. As art critic Ernest Chesneau noted ten years earlier: “At the moment when we introduce Western mores, customs, and arts to Japan, would I have the ridiculous pretension to encourage you to subject French art to Japanese art?”‍[48] Despite these pervasive debates, few art historians have explored the anxieties surrounding the cultural exchanges between France and Japan.‍[49] Such regrets fit uncomfortably within narratives about France’s “civilizing mission,” a concept used to legitimize colonialism on the premise that French culture was superior to other societies and was going to “help” other nations.‍[50] Japonisme, after all, is a term used to describe the French admiration for arts from Japan. Art historians have long emphasized French artists’ celebration, and appropriation, of Japanese visual effects, focusing on prints and the phenomenon’s champions, notably Philippe Burty, Edgar Degas, James Tissot, and the Goncourt brothers, among others.‍[51]

Régamey was sympathetic to Guimet’s and Chesneau’s perspectives about the ill effects of cultural exchange throughout his life. During his nine-week sojourn in 1876, his observations about Japan’s cultural exchange with American and European nations foreshadowed some of the key complaints launched against Japanese art education in his 1899 appraisal. “Old Japan is disappearing; civilization is making great strides—they say oil lamps, top hats, and umbrellas are pretty common now,”⁠ he lamented.‍[52] In a letter drafted to his mother, Régamey expressed regret about Japan’s “westernization.” “I am witnessing the end of this wonderful, artistic, poetic world that was full of sweetness as it sinks into the gloomy morass of civilization,” he feared.‍[53] To stress his point, Régamey drew a Japanese man wearing a gibus top hat and wrote: “it is like raising hairs on the head of the baldest art student.”⁠‍[54]

The belief that exchange with Europe and the United States adulterated Japanese art and culture had also been the inspiration for Régamey’s The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème, an account first published in La Plume (The Quill; 1893) before it was reprinted as a book in 1894.⁠‍[55] This text, written as a journal from the perspective of Madame Chrysanthème, recounts the failed marriage between a Japanese woman and a French naval officer temporarily based in Japan. Régamey’s narrative was an adaptation of Louis Marie Julien Viaud’s much more widely acclaimed Madame Chrysanthème (1887–88), a semi-fictitious diary written under the pseudonym Pierre Loti.⁠‍[56] Set in Nagasaki, Loti’s loosely autobiographical account logs the story of a naval officer who temporarily wed a Japanese woman. The success of Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème in France not only led to its translation in multiple languages, but it also inspired a series of adaptations, including Régamey’s, and operas by André Messager and Giacomo Puccini titled Madame Chrysanthème (1893) and Madame Butterfly (1904), respectively.⁠‍[57] What distinguishes Régamey’s adaptation from others was his desire to vindicate Japan from Loti’s harsh critiques. Whereas Loti appropriated tropes that characterize “orientalist” narratives, such as the subjugation of—and condescension toward—non-white women, Régamey wrote from Chrysanthème’s perspective to exonerate Japanese women from racist stereotypes launched against them by Europeans (while nonetheless adhering to some “positive” racial stereotypes, such as that the women are docile).

Régamey’s rebuttal to Loti’s harsh depiction of Japan complicates our understanding of late nineteenth-century French attitudes toward cultural exchange. Régamey’s narrative redirects the critical appraisal away from “the Japanese woman” and toward “the Frenchman”; he created a character whose vulgarity prevented him from recognizing Chrysanthème’s virtues and Japan’s allure. Régamey recast the naval officer as crude, as a character whose racist and sexist bias against the Japanese prevented him from admiring Chrysanthème’s refinement. Régamey’s vilification of Loti’s story does not excuse his own reliance on Japanese stereotypes. As noted in the introduction to its 2010 translation by Christopher Reed, both authors perpetuated preconceived notions that essentialized Japanese womanhood: each author described the female character as meek and submissive.⁠‍[58]

Régamey’s adaptation of Madame Chrysanthème became a forum to undermine preconceived notions about Japanese art. His adaptation, in fact, makes an important point relative to the central aim of this article, that is, his ideas about the connection between drawing pedagogy and collective, national customs. In both Loti’s and Régamey’s versions, the authors invoke drawing techniques in support of their respective claims about Japan. Loti, who was an adept draftsman, declared the superiority of the “French school.” He recounts an incident where the officer’s training in lifelike drawing techniques easily impressed a Japanese audience more familiar with schematic conventions:

I . . . fetch a notebook and get right to work . . . while behind me the three women crowd close, very close, following the movements of my pencil with amazed attention. Never have they seen anyone draw realistically, since Japanese art is completely conventional, and my style delights them . . . the three Japanese women are enraptured by how [real] my sketch looks.⁠‍[59]

When Régamey adapted Loti’s text, he did not overlook Loti’s desire to distinguish between Japanese and French methods of art making.

Régamey, as a Japoniste who despised the imposition of geometry-based training at home and abroad, predictably contradicted Loti by noting the ill effects of European models in his novel. “Whether these [drawing] classes are advanced or intermediate, everywhere the same kind of things have served as models for these unfortunate children: cooking pot, cap, school desk, etc., the same ‘everyday object’ lifeless and expressionless, that has been so overused here, but that, happily, we are starting to leave behind,” Régamey noted.‍[60] He likewise lamented that: “The worst is that for these studies, the use of the brush—that admirable tool, both so supple and so strong, the national tool—has not been preserved. It is our dry lead pencil and smudgy, sticky wax crayon that are awkwardly used by these misguided little Japanese.”‍[61] Régamey’s critique here was twofold. He undermined Loti’s assumption that Japanese art-making practices differed from those deployed in France. At the same time, he also condemned the importation of drawing methods that increasingly supplanted seasoned Japanese techniques.

The representational strategies Régamey deployed in his frontispiece further amplify this critique. Whereas Régamey’s frontispiece emulated Japanese conventions of linearity, emphasizing bold outlines and flat planes of color (in this case, black and white), Loti’s heavily illustrated novel employed a realistic style in its figures, using a range of graduated tones to render the subject matter (which included landscapes, interiors, and figure studies; fig. 7). For example, in Régamey’s text the female figure is seated on a bench dressed in a kimono with her hair pulled away from her face and on top of her head. She hunches forward as she reads from a scroll held in her hands. Like Régamey’s frontispiece, Rossi (one of the artists who illustrated Loti’s text) depicted a Japanese woman seated, reclining under an umbrella that she holds above her head with her left hand (fig. 8). Distinct from Régamey’s emphasis on linearity, Rossi’s drawing set his model outside using series of modulated tones applied like watercolor.

figure 7
Fig. 7, Félix Régamey, Frontispiece, ca. 1894. Published in Félix Régamey, Le Cahier rose de Mme Chrysanthème (Madame Chrysanthemum’s Pink Notebook) (Paris: Bibliothèque Artistique et Littéraire, 1894), n.p.
figure 8
Fig. 8, Luigi Rossi, untitled, ca. 1888. Published in Pierre Loti, Madame Chrysanthème, illustrations gravées par Ch. Guillaume (Madame Chrysanthemum, Illustrations Engraved by Ch. Guillaume) (Paris: E. Guillaume 1888), n.p.
figure 9
Fig. 9, Félix Régamey, École des Beaux-Arts de Tokio (Tokyo School of Fine Arts), ca. 1900. Published in Félix Régamey, Le Japon en images (Japan in Images) (Paris: Paclot, 1905), n.p.

Visual Economy in Japanese Drawings
Régamey’s 1899 investigation attributed to Japanese artists skills that were highly coveted by some French artists and critics associated with anti-academicism, notably strong visual memory and the capacity to reproduce ephemeral atmospheric effects and scenes from modern life.‍[62] Régamey believed that this was a skill supported, in part, by certain values and pedagogical practices that existed in Japan. In contrast to the stress placed on the “seasoned” historical, religious, and allegorical subject matter at the concours (contests) organized by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Régamey noted an instance of a Japanese competition at L’École Impériale des Beaux-Arts de Tokio that foregrounded a genre that was ostensibly more conducive to capturing unfixed, variable effects. Particularly, the school assigned a landscape described as “La fumée de la chaumière perdue dans la vallée” (Smoke from a cottage lost in a valley; fig. 9).⁠‍[63] Although this theme did not reflect the French Academy’s preferences (especially for landscapes that foregrounded a mythological narrative or ancient past), Régamey likened the ability to depict smoke to a litmus test to prove adept draftsmanship attributed to one of the most famous French academicians, the neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867). “Ingres, a master in design and an enthusiastic admirer of Japanese art, was wont to say to his pupils . . . ‘You will know nothing until you are able to sketch, in the course of his fall, a man falling from a roof.’”⁠‍[64] Because it is difficult to convincingly reproduce moving figures or natural phenomena—like a person falling and smoke—the ability to do so attested to an artist’s great perceptual and representational skills. While drawing smoke rebuffs the preference of the Académie Française (French Academy) for human figure study, both Ingres and Japanese masters (from Régamey’s perspective) privileged the visual rendering of the ephemeral as demonstrative of drawing proficiency.

Régamey also argued that the ability to see and reproduce unfixed, active elements was a skill set acquired by the Japanese because of their unprecedented and intrinsic admiration for direct observation. By prioritizing observational skills, Japanese artists (Régamey maintained) could arrive at the momentary without the aid of registration devices like photography. In Le Japon pratique, he notes that:

But do not speak to [the Japanese] either of moldings or photography. Never would they consent to look to them [plaster casts and photographs] for their first instruction; it is to nature herself, to nature only that they apply. All in vain was it for nature to have aspects so fugitive, and movements so elusive, that we had been unable to seize them till instantaneous photography came to our aid; the Japanese—they had long found them out—had fixed them and reproduced them for us. That which in their pictures we censured as outré was all simply the result of marvelous ability of execution in the service of a naïve power of observation passionately clear-sighted and aided by a memory specially exercised.‍[65]

Régamey’s account both venerates Japanese art and culture, and essentializes “Japaneseness” by attributing to the Japanese an innate constitution that amounted to perceptual strength.‍[66] Régamey was not alone in noting this perceived skill, however. According to the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the Japanese could arrive at the transitory without the aid of the camera due to their preference for the essential rather than details.‍[67]

figure 10
Fig. 10, Félix Régamey, untitled, ca. 1893. Published in Félix Régamey, Japan in Art and Industry: With a Glance at Japanese Manners and Customs, trans. M. French Sheldon and Eli Lemon Sheldon (London: G. P. Putnam Sons, 1893), 25.

Viollet-le-Duc, like Régamey, argued that the facility with which the Japanese could reproduce the nearly imperceptible effortlessly was connected to their ability to abstract or reduce what was seen to essential lines.‍[68] As an example of this, Régamey’s Le Japon pratique looked to “those sketches of landscapes and of animals, the representations of which are obtained by a single, uninterrupted stroke” (fig. 10).‍[69] He exemplifies this tendency in his representation of a bird and mouse composed of a minimal number of drawn lines, or a “visual economy.” Régamey admired what he perceived to be restraint in deploying the drawn line to construct images; using fewer lines demonstrated the artist’s proficiency to visualize subject matter with minimal information or details.

The valorization of the “essential” corresponded to a particular school of French thought that encouraged visual economy—to overlook detail in order to see and reproduce the essence of a subject. Rather than attend to individual parts or details, exercising visual economy meant to see the “whole” and to abbreviate what was visible by eye; it entailed seeing the relationship or harmonious proportions between objects in a given field of vision and reducing these figures to schematic contours emblematic of their most salient features. In French academic theory, these ideas were embodied by the “serpentine line,” an s-shaped contour that aims to reduce a subject’s movement and essential characteristic to a line through judgment, selection and gauging proportions.‍[70]

figure 11
Fig. 11, Félix Régamey, “Le dessin d’après les Japonais” (Drawing according to the Japanese), Le Petit français illustré (The Illustrated Little Frenchman), no. 127 (August 1891): n.p.

This was not the only publication in which Régamey described Japanese drawing as mastering visual economy in this way. Eight years earlier, in 1891, Le Petit français illustré (The Illustrated Little Frenchman)—a journal for schoolchildren printed between 1889 and 1905 that typically published bandes dessinées (comic strips)—featured a set of drawing exercises by Régamey titled “Le Dessin d’après les Japonais” ⁠(Drawing According to the Japanese; fig. 11).‍[71] This exercise explained how to reproduce subject matter with a limited number of lines. Though Régamey’s contribution contains no narrative dimension, he adopted a similar format to bandes dessinées, separating six motifs by a grid composed of two columns and three rows. Whereas the first row depicts two line drawings—produced with the aid of a compass—of a bat in the moonlight and a frog followed by a second frog in the rain, the second row reproduces the same figures using a greater range of tones afforded by a wash drawing. In the third row, Régamey juxtaposes two squirrels eating seeds with two daimyos (a term used to describe feudal lords who inherited land in Japan until the Meiji period). Unlike the bat and frogs, the final two images were produced “à main levée, sans esquisse et sans préparation” (freehand, without any preparatory sketches); to aid draftsmen, Régamey recommended following the numbers indicated next to the lines so as not to exceed a limited number of brushstrokes.⁠‍[72]

Régamey’s Pedagogical Philosophy
A few years after he critically appraised Japanese drawing programs, Régamey outlined his own pedagogical philosophy and practice in a text titled Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin (The Problem with Teaching Drawing; 1906).‍[73] His curriculum laid claim to the very skill sets he projected onto Japanese artists—above all, visual acuity and economy of line. Régamey nonetheless excluded Japanese methods of instruction from his practice and instead merged three educational strategies that acquired popularity within pedagogical discourses in the second half of the nineteenth century in France: Lecoq de Boisbaudran’s system of drawing from memory, Guillaume’s méthode géométrique, and Ravaisson’s emphasis on the imitation of classically inspired artistic precedents. Whereas Lecoq’s system became popular among practicing artists, notably Henri Fantin-Latour, Auguste Rodin, and Alphonse Legros, Guillaume, Ravaisson, and Régamey debated measures for public drawing instruction for primary school students.

Régamey’s pedagogical philosophy merged the aims of Lecoq’s, Ravaisson’s, and Guillaume’s respective systems to refine the physiological and psychological processes employed in art making. Conceptualized as physionomie (physionomy) and mesure (measure), Régamey’s method required artists to practice in each domain to master synthesis (discerning the parts most constitutive of the “whole”) and analysis (exhibiting knowledge of the parts based on mathematical law rather than what is perceptible by eye).‍[74] Whereas working directly from models and memory—understood as the essential exercises—strengthened synthetic perception (and were qualities Régamey associated with Japanese artists), geometry lessons—described as auxiliary exercises—cultivated analytic reasoning. Together, Régamey’s pedagogical justification maintained that these skills became habitual, allowing the artist to unconsciously and effortlessly reproduce what was visible according to its most salient attributes and scientific truth.

To develop the dual properties of “mesure and “physionomie” in draftsmen, Régamey argued that drawing education must depend on two types of exercises, the “essentiels” (essentials) and “auxiliaires” (auxiliaries), that catered to physiognomy and measure, respectively.‍[75] Copying, interpretation, drawing from memory, and composition were among the “essential” exercises that trained physiognomy by appealing to physiology via sensory training. Régamey imagined these exercises would support an ocular education through the acquisition of visual and representational habits; such habits would, he claimed, train the eye to discern the most essential features instantaneously. When Régamey described physiognomy’s capacity to render likeness, he offered an anecdote that exemplifies this belief:

Just as you cannot recall the details of facial features of your distant friends, you could not say how he trimmed his beard or even if he had one; and, as a consequence, even if you were a good painter, it would be impossible for you to reproduce an accurate likeness with the je ne sais quoi that distinguishes this man from others and leads to his instantaneous recognition. It is only through the triumph of sentiment—of physiognomy [that this feat is possible].‍[76]

Physiognomy therefore represented the skill of economizing, of reducing the representation to only the essential features, which could be linked to Lecoq’s system of visual memory training and back to Régamey’s analysis of Japanese drawings and praise for their economical use of line.‍[77] The ability to glean the most salient attributes of a sitter to produce a convincing likeness was tantamount to artistic production; regardless of the subject matter, artists negotiated the minimal number of visual elements that are necessary to synthetically describe the “whole.”

“Auxiliary” exercises complemented—if not counterbalanced—the emphasis placed on physiognomy (or physiognomic renderings) by essential exercises. To Régamey, art also demanded representational skills grounded equally in “measure,” a term used to describe mathematical analysis or drawings produced through reason (rather than by eye), as it did synthesis (or the ability to quickly see the “whole”). Geometric practices, such as perspective, alongside anatomy and art history were categorized as “auxiliary” subjects that exercised “measure.” These were, Régamey argued, psychological exercises, rooted less in what is seen than what is known and used to equip the mind with scientific notions needed to comprehend form.‍[78]

To illustrate how physiognomy and measure (or essential and auxiliary skills) operated in unison while drawing, Régamey provided an anecdote that compared drawing habits to the conduct associated with firing a weapon. Learning to draw was like learning to shoot a pistol, Régamey believed.‍[79] The eye provides aim, guiding the bullet toward the target. The accuracy required to hit the target depends on two points beginning with the gun’s handle and the target, the firing line or line of vision. To plot these points, from the gun to the target, requires not only vision, but also an understanding of distance relative to position using horizontal and vertical planes. When using a firearm, “measure” and “physiognomy” operate in tandem to mark a point and to draw a line between points. This practice, like firing a gun, reduces effort and improves accuracy. “It is through persistent effort that the Conscious, feeding the Unconscious, provides an artist with the reflexes necessary to perfect the power of expression.”‍[80] Through conscious effort, Régamey remarked, the skills required to draw become unconscious, seemingly instinctual routines that can be performed without thought; they are, in effect, based entirely on acquired habits of seeing, moving, and remembering.

Régamey’s regimen foregrounded methods to teach visual acuity and economy taught by leading pedagogical thinkers in France. At the same time, his “essential exercises” less explicitly modified a pedagogical format that he encountered during his second trip to Japan in 1899, wherein drawing was taught through four key stages that merged reason, sentiment, and visual memory training. In particular, Régamey adapted a practice he encountered at the École Normale for girls that he described in his 1899 study, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio. This school organized drawing curriculum according to four key exercises that he translated to: 1) Exercice de pinceau (brush exercise); 2) calqué (traced); 3) copié (copied); and 4) composition (composition).‍[81]

figure 12
Fig. 12, Félix Régamey, École Normale (Filles), Travaux d’élèves (Normal School for Girls, Student Work), ca. 1899. Published in Félix Régamey, Le dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokyo (Drawing and Its Education in Schools in Tokyo) (Paris: Atelier F. Régamey, 1899), 19. Image courtesy of General Research Division, The New York Public Library, New York.

To exemplify what these lessons taught, Régamey reproduced four drawings completed by Japanese students as part of this regime (fig. 12).‍[82] Labeled I, II, III, and IV, each drawing in Le Dessin et son enseignement features a plant or animal excised from its background. Figure I, for instance, represents a grass-like plant produced with long strokes of dark and light tones that stem from the bottom edge of the paper, curving upward toward the top; it was an exercise intended to “l’initier à certains tours de main” (to train manual dexterity) using a pinceau, a small brush.‍[83] Figures II and III depict a bird seated on a branch and in flight, respectively. Unlike the first image, which was composed entirely of lines to acclimate the artist’s handling of the brush, the second and third depicted more complex subject matter using a greater range of tonal variation and exhibited attempts at shading. These stages demanded that students first calqué than copié. Using the same models, students were then expected to reproduce the subject matter entirely from memory; to aid students, the teacher put “les lignes maîtresses,” or the essential lines, on the board (but students were required to reproduce the model in all its details). Finally, the lessons culminated in the interpretation of objects in relief or from nature. As an example of this, figure IV shows a radish next to a basket of collected plants in the foreground using a combination of linear brushstrokes to represent the basket and thick pools of ink to describe the radish’s stalk.

When Régamey systematized his own drawing regime, this Japanese model provided a frame for the program he outlined in his 1906 text. Régamey likewise distilled the essential exercises into four stages that included: 1) Copie rigoureuse (rigorous copy) after prints; 2) Interprétation (interpretation) after plaster models, objects in relief, still lifes, and culminating in the live model; 3) Dessin de mémoire (drawing from memory), which began by copying prints “by heart” before depicting objects in relief and in nature from memory; and 4) Composition (unlimited choice of subjects).⁠‍[84] However, Régamey’s method diverged from the Japanese model to some extent. His graduated series excluded the earliest stage, brush exercises (because Régamey’s program did not employ brushes, he had little need for this lesson). Instead, Régamey began by copying prints and continued quickly to the second stage, interpretation (stages two and three at the École Normale). Whereas the Japanese school concluded with composition, Régamey included drawing from memory before finishing with composition. One might speculate that Régamey incorporated visual memory training into a system geared toward French students to compensate for a skill set he already attributed—with admiration—to the innate constitution of the Japanese.

Although Régamey’s system emulated the graduated exercises at the École Normale for girls, he rejected the models used at this school. In fact, when Régamey revised existing drawing regimens in France, he purposefully excluded Japanese models. “Wanting to replace our art with that of the Japanese would be a mistake, if not a crime,” Régamey cautioned.‍[85] That Régamey warned against Japanese models might come as a surprise. Régamey, after all, attributed to Japanese artists the very positive qualities he harnessed to visual memory training. While Régamey did not forsake cultural exchange altogether, he recommended that it be approached with caution. In his book Japon en images (Japan in Images; 1900), for example, Régamey warned that “the mindless adoption of new formulas is just as pernicious as it is paralyzing to copy works from the past.”‍[86] By this, Régamey warned that the exchange of technical procedures could stultify artistic production. In Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, he also discouraged a feature that he described as central to Japanese drawing instruction: using the brush. Pencil, he justified, fostered “research,” a skill set conducive to learning (whereas the brush facilitated “production”).‍[87] Régamey’s pedagogical approach therefore represented a complicated relationship with Japanese artistic production; his acceptance and rejection of Japanese art-making strategies grew from a complex understanding of art and its history that was popular in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Régamey’s Conception of Japanese Stylistic “Evolution”
Cultural exchange proved to be troublesome to Régamey. As much as he admired Japanese artistic production, he cautioned against the introduction of Japanese art-making strategies into French pedagogical programs. The rationale behind his seemingly inconsistent attitude is illuminated when one takes into consideration his ideas about stylistic tendencies and civilization, above all their interdependence. For Régamey, aesthetic developments and the strength of a civilization were not mutually exclusive; rather, their trajectories were intimately linked. He summarized this confluence in his illustrated text Japon en images in the following terms: “Whoever says Art says Civilization. Civilization moves slowly and time quickly destroys all that did not take much time to create. It is through the sequence of accumulated work from multiple generations that progress is achieved.”‍[88] His statement, modernist in its universalizing desire to connect stylistic change to Japanese civilization’s perceived tendency toward progress, suggests that art is a product of accrued advancements. For Régamey, this position exceeded the scope of Japanese art history and became a popular method to explain the evolution of artistic tendencies across Europe as well.‍[89]

To art historians, part of this narrative should be familiar. There are significant commonalities between Régamey’s mindset and foundational texts of disciplinary art history. Régamey’s work tackles the very question that preoccupied the earliest art historical scholarship and that remains unresolved today: what determines stylistic variation? When art historians such as Riegl and Erwin Panofsky grappled with this concern, they found it profitable to yoke such transformations to Kunstwollen.‍[90] This term described a supra-individual, autonomous force that causes aesthetic tendencies to shift over time. It should go without saying that Kunstwollen, among its long list of shortcomings, fails to adequately identify concrete or material motivations that propel artistic developments and, in so doing, is a model devoid of free will and individual agency.

Régamey’s work offers an alternative account of stylistic change that is rooted in state-sanctioned drawing pedagogy. It would be wrong to suggest that Régamey occupied a reactionary position to theories of Kunstwollen, however; he was, in all likelihood, ignorant of the contemporaneous German-language debates taking place. Unlike his art historical counterparts, Régamey proposed that artists had the capacity to intervene in aesthetic developments through conscious effort that evolved into unconscious predispositions. To cultivate a shared aesthetic sensibility among French citizens, drawing programs therefore needed to be carefully calibrated with existing techniques (which had become unconscious predispositions) in mind; this was because style, to his line of reasoning, resulted from practices accrued over centuries. Régamey implicitly argued that to introduce new methods without respect to existing conventions could derail “advancements.”

When Régamey characterized stylistic change as “travaux accumulés des générations” (work accumulated over generations), his perception was not unique. In an article on ancient Japanese artistic training published in 1903 as “L’Enseignement artistique au vieux Japon” (Art Education in Old Japan), Jules Pillet traced a genealogy of Japanese drawing practice back to Chinese calligraphy.‍[91] Pillet was Régamey’s colleague in two domains: he was not only a Japoniste (who, in the context of this article, cited a lecture by Régamey), but he was also a drawing instructor who helped systematize la méthode géométrique. Pillet, like Régamey, believed that art operated according to a law driving toward perfection. Pillet advocated a Hegelian idea that was popular in France and that positioned all art as existing in “perpetual genesis,” as part of an evolution:

Art is always in a perpetual genesis; it unceasingly transforms, it amends its craftsmanship to maintain a harmony with the new necessities of existence; art is not born in the same way that Minerva emerged from the head of Jupiter. Style does not invite itself, it only exists by the natural evolution of Art.‍[92]

figure 13
Fig. 13, Jules Pillet, “L’Enseignement Artistique au vieux Japon” (Art Education in Old Japan), L’Art pour tous: Encyclopédie de l’art industriel et décoratif (Art for Everyone: Encyclopedia of Industrial and Decorative Art), June 1903, n.p. Image available from:

To legitimize their ideas about artistic change, they adopted the popular conception that Japanese drawing and writing procedures were indistinguishable from one another. Pillet, in fact, argued that Japanese artists’ economy of line originated in Chinese calligraphy (fig. 13).

Before dreaming of producing a faithful portrait of nature, men first sought to capture a simple silhouette . . . the hieroglyph then progressed into two distinct branches: the simple line (which became a key or a character) constituted a feature necessary of any written language; when the line became embellished, on the contrary, it better captured the physiognomy of the natural object and became the framework for artistic drawings as we know them. The symbol preceded the portrait of our surroundings.‍[93]

By the time Régamey conducted his 1899 study of artistic training in Japan, he too had become convinced that Japanese art derived from Japanese writing systems. Many of his ideas were based on Guimet’s texts about Japan. Shortly after his first trip to Japan in 1876, Guimet had connected Japanese art to its writing procedures in Promenades japonaises (1880): “Les artistes emploient dans leurs oeuvres les procédés hiéroglyphiques, le symbolisme et la simplification, la pensée exprimée d’un trait” (Artists emulate hieroglyphics and employ symbolism and simplification in their work to express thought through line).⁠‍[94] It is unclear whether or not Guimet, when he linked drawing to the written word, understood such writing systems to be pictorial; Japanese script, as a combination of logographic kanji and syllabic kana, is not categorized by today’s linguists as a pictographic writing system. Regardless, the perceived equivalence between drawing and writing that persisted among Japonistes like Guimet in the second half of the nineteenth century is not just a matter of their own ignorance; in part, they were remarking on the use of painted strokes to compose characters and the preference for clearly delineated contours in certain drawing practices. The visual similarities between written and drawn lines likely were amplified for Régamey: unlike Japanese calligraphic drawings, his artistic practice is characterized by the suppression of thick, visible lines and instead prioritizes the careful modulation of tone. In Le Japon pratique, Régamey in fact drew similar conclusions to Guimet. He noted that the Japanese “have assimilated calligraphy to the art of drawing.⁠”‍[95] It was the association between drawing and writing that also led Régamey to provocatively conclude in the same text that: “In Japan, everyone draws.⁠”‍[96]

Contextualized in relationship to broader discourses on art and civilization, one can speculate why Régamey excluded Japanese artistic models from his French curriculum. If art, for Régamey, was understood as the accumulation of centuries of work, might he have based his decision to suppress Japanese models from French students as a way to preserve the historical process of French stylistic change? Certainly, this is not to suggest that Pillet or Régamey believed that the end goals of artistic production in distinct cultural groups were incompatible. As noted by Pillet,

Despite distinct manners and epochs, in spite of different races, the human mind is always the same; and to represent nature, masters of all countries have always taught the same good principles even when they cater to opposed conventions; more than the one young artist, dreaming to create new art or new style, would do well to consider and respect the wise rules of old Chinese and Japanese teachers.‍[97]

In spite of distinct representational conventions that existed around the world, Pillet explained, the core procedures for art making hardly differed. Régamey’s writing on Japan and pedagogy adopted a similar attitude. Like Pillet, Régamey praised the shared methods that existed in Japan and France, such as the emphasis on visual memory training. However, he did not recommend stylistic appropriation. I argue that this was because they believed that adopting models from other cultures would disrupt each school’s “evolution.” A related perspective appeared in Guillaume’s 1886 essay “De l’esthétique dans l’enseignement de l’art” (Aesthetics in Art Education).‍[98] Studying European art alongside non-Western art, Guillaume claimed, would offer insight into universal truths about art’s history. What differed between distinct schools of art had less to do with principles or artistic ideals than the effect of subject matter and models on France’s artistic trajectory.‍[99]

In nineteenth-century France, art was one of many arenas understood to advance alongside and in conjunction with civilization. It also reflected a given society’s mental and physical wellness. This led many philosophers, art critics, and politicians to connect art’s histories to nation and race. An English-language translation of Heinrich Wölfflin’s Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Principles of Art History; 1915) begins with a passage that recalls the very forces of identity, habit, and education on art discussed among mid-to-late nineteenth-century philosophers, artists, critics, and instructors, such as Régamey:

Ludwig Richter relates . . . how once, when he was in Tivoli as a young man, he and three friends set out to paint part of the landscape, all four firmly resolved not to deviate from nature by a hair’s breadth; and although the subject was the same . . . the result was four totally different pictures.‍[100]

When Régamey and Kyōsai engaged in an artistic duel, they likewise both worked “from nature,” yet the final products show conspicuous stylistic differences that exemplify how each man’s practice was inflected with learned conventions. Yet, whereas Régamey imagined state-sanctioned interventions into training particular habits of seeing to drive civilization forward, formalist art historians, such as Riegl and Panofsky, hinged artistic changes to evolutionary laws, propelled by their own intrinsic logic as opposed to individual agency.‍[101] While such disciplinary approaches have been heavily criticized as teleological, Régamey’s conception of style offers an alternative model (albeit flawed) for the generation of stylistic change in artistic practice over long periods time, particularly by considering the role of acquired habits or technical procedures (and the way such technical procedures inform visual effect).

For Régamey, habit acquisition explained the cultivation of cultural styles and their changes over time. Régamey explicitly linked drawing and the habits it required and engendered to a state’s culture. In doing so, he essentially argued that the cultivation of national identity depended on establishing contact between bodily habits and a related concept, “collective customs.” Distinct from habit, custom referred to commonly accepted behaviors or modes of behaving that are socially and historically contingent (or specific to a particular society, a definition which resounds today).‍[102] In discourses on habit in the nineteenth century, it was common to establish a point of continuity between custom and habit. For example, in Émile Littré’s Dictionnaire de la langue française (Dictionary of the French Language; 1872–77), he distinguishes between coutume (custom) and habitude (habit) before expressing how these two concepts converge:

Custom is objective, that is to say, it indicates a way of being to which we conform. On the contrary, habit is subjective; it indicates a way of being that is personal to us and that determines our actions. While habit becomes a necessity, custom does not. However, people often say “I have the custom” when they have acquired a coffee drinking habit. But having a “custom” only expresses the fact that I usually order coffee, while having a “habit” communicates an urgent need.‍[103]

Littré, thus, explained how custom and habit often were used to explain one’s relationship to having a daily coffee. What distinguished these two concepts was that to adopt and practice certain customs required individual agency, or as the result of free will, whereas habits referred to behaviors that became a necessity, or a thoughtless practice that verged on compulsion. In the case of coffee consumption, however, whether it was a practice driven by custom or habit is often difficult to determine.

For Régamey, the learned habits required to produce art could not be easily disentangled from the cultivation of national identity, and vice versa. What started as a custom, much like daily coffee consumption, over time became a habit performed unconsciously and transmitted over generations. At stake in the classroom, then, was the indoctrination of habits that would lead a society to degenerate rather than contribute to a universal tendency toward perfection. This was because practicing on preexisting artistic models (rather than after nature) adhered to certain representational conventions and, therefore, reinforced qualities that embodied distinct artistic periods and places. For instance, by requiring that students copy antique sculptures, the French Academy reinforced the importance of human figure study and ideal types for two centuries. Therefore, for Régamey, the material—or “sources”—introduced to classrooms could have a great effect on individuals and society as a whole.

Régamey’s perspective might seem like an unusual take on habit. The idea that universal laws were analogous to habit and habit acquisition permeated philosophical and evolutionary discourses in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.‍[104] Within the domain of Lamarckian evolutionary theory, for instance, a range of thinkers described instincts as acquired habits; instincts were, in this line of inquiry, a series of unconscious memories that were then inherited.‍[105] When Régamey attributed certain innate, instinctual qualities to the Japanese, he did not necessarily consider these attributes unrelated to the work being done in the classroom. For Régamey, the habits transmitted between individuals in a given society had a distinct significance; they obtained a teleological purpose and, as such, were driven by a desired outcome.

In conclusion, Régamey’s contributions to comparative art pedagogy and drawing education cannot be disentangled from nationalist discussions that permeated French thinking at the end of the nineteenth century. At the same time that the French state encouraged global trade, such as, in this instance, by sponsoring Régamey’s trip to Japan, the cultivation and maintenance of uniquely French and Japanese national identities was central to artistic discourses that flourished at home, in France. This led Régamey both to celebrate Japanese art and to caution against the appropriation of its stylistic characteristics. Much like the artistic duel that introduced this article, Régamey not only held Japanese art in great esteem, but also viewed it as an opponent that threatened French artistic habits and the future of its national identity.

Mary Hunter and Matthew Hunter deserve special recognition for all the support and feedback they have offered as I pursued this project. I also owe gratitude to the anonymous peer reviewers and the editors at Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide for critically appraising my work. Likewise, it would be negligent not to acknowledge the generosity of multiple institutions and fellowship opportunities that allowed me to conduct this research. These include the staff at McGill University’s libraries and at the University of California at Santa Barbara Library; Media@McGill; the Institut Français d’Amérique; the Wolfe Chair Graduate Fellowship in Scientific and Technological Literacy; and the Max Stern Museum Fellowship. Except where otherwise indicated, translations are my own.

[1] At the time this episode took place, duels had become a popular mode of entertainment among France’s growing bourgeoisie. Eager to appropriate the codes of honor historically associated with the nobility, the new ruling class staged such contests publicly (particularly within political and journalistic circles) to settle disputes where a man’s glory was at stake. While duels were practiced recreationally between men of equal skill and social standing, the threat of injury came to signify an individual’s integrity, heroism, and manhood. Duels necessitated courage and self-discipline. Participants were required to master and adhere to a set of codified rules and regulations. See Robert A. Nye, “Honor and the Duel in the Third Republic, 1860–1914,” in Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 172–215; François Guillet, “The Duel and the Bourgeoisie in 19th-Century France,” Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle 34 (2007): 55–70.

[2] The first volume focuses on their excursion to Yokohama and Kamakura, while the second summarizes their trip to Tokyo and Nikkô. In a chapter titled “Un Duel,” Guimet recounts the skirmish, so to speak, between the two men. See⁠ Émile Guimet and Félix Régamey, Promenades japonaises (Paris: Charpentier, 1878); Émile Guimet and Félix Régamey, Promenades japonaises: Tokio-Nikko (Paris: C. Charpentier, 1880).

[3] For scholarship on Kyōsai’s methods of artistic education, see Brenda G. Jordan, “Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Theory and Pedagogy: The Preeminence of Shasei,” in Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets: Talent and Training in Japanese Painting (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003).

[4] Guimet’s Promenades japonaises does, however, feature a second portrait of Kyōsai in his studio by Régamey. See Guimet and Régamey, Promenades japonaises, 189.

[5] Guimet, Promenades japonaises: Tokio-Nikko, 191. The incident was not unencumbered by a desire for prestige; it benefited each man’s social standing. For French audiences, Régamey’s first tour of Japan made him a widely accepted authority on Japonisme alongside Philippe Burty, the Goncourt brothers, and Ernest Chesneau, to name a few. When Régamey and Guimet published an account of their visit to Kyōsai’s studio, they in turn introduced the painter to a European audience eager to consume Japanese cultural production.

[6] In written accounts, duels often alluded to battles waged between two nations. See Robert A. Nye, “Fencing, the Duel and Republican Manhood in the Third Republic,” Journal of Contemporary History 25, no. 2/3 (May–June 1990): 372.

[7] For scholarship on Japonisme’s relationship to French national identity and the complicated critical reception of Japanese art in France, see Jessica M. Dandona, Nature and the Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France: The Art of Emile Gallé and the École de Nancy (London: Routledge, 2017).

[8] In recent scholarship by Christopher Reed and Ting Chang, Régamey has been positioned alongside the writers, collectors, and artists most commonly associated with Japonisme, such as Theodore Duret, Émile Guimet, and Vincent van Gogh. See Christopher Reed, introduction to The Chrysanthème Papers: The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème and Other Documents on French Japonisme (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010), 1–60; Ting Chang, “The Labor of Travel: Guimet and Régamey in Asia,” in Travel, Collecting, and Museums of Asian Art in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2013), 73–110; Ting Chang, “Paris, Japan and Modernity: A Vexed Ratio,” in Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? Essays on Art and Modernity, 1850–1900, ed. Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2016), 153–70.

[9] The idea that theories of habit and habitual practices could offer a method of art historical analysis was proposed in recent scholarship by Adi Efal-Lautenschläger. See Adi Efal-Lautenschläger, Habitus as Method: Revisiting a Scholastic Theory of Art (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2017).

[10] David Karel, Dictionnaire des artistes de langue française en Amérique du Nord (Laval, France: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 1992), 681–82. He also was briefly employed as an instructor at École Spéciale d’Architecture, a private institution founded by M. Emile Trélat. See “Ça et la,” Gil Blas, June 2, 1907, n.p.

[11] Copies of this series are now held by the Musée Carnavalet. For a description of its contents, see Firmin Maillard, Histoire des journaux publiés à Paris pendant le siège et sous la Commune: 4 septembre 1870 au 28 mai 1871 (Paris: E. Dentu, 1871), 24–25.

[12] “Art in the Cities,” The Art Journal 6 (1880): 62; Félix Régamey, “À Chicago il y a vingt ans,” Le Tour du monde, May 20, 1893, 305–20. The Art Institute has no known documentation to support this, however.

[13] For resources outlining their itinerary, see Keiko Omoto and Francis Macouin, Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde (Paris: Gallimard/Réunion des Musées Nationaux Histoire, 1990), 60–61, 66; and Francis Macouin and Françoise Chappuis, D’Outremer et d’Orient mystique: Les Itinéraires d’Émile Guimet (Sully-la-Tour, France: Éditions Findakly, 2001).

[14] For instance, see Guimet and Régamey, Promenades japonaises (1878, 1880). Régamey’s interest in Japonisme also led him to participate in the Société Franco-Japonaise in Paris.

[15] Mario Proth, Voyage au pays des peintres: Salon universel de 1878 (Paris: Ludovic Baschet, 1879), 324.

[16] “Les collections de M. Guimet, au Trocadéro,” L’Illustration, November 16, 1878, 310. This also became the foundation for the Musée Guimet, a museum dedicated to les arts asiatiques (Asian art) that was first established in Lyon in 1879 and moved to Paris in 1889.

[17] Christian de Trogoff, “Courrier des Théâtres,” Gil Blas, May 31, 1884; Le Diable Boiteux, “Nouvelles & Echos,” Gil Blas, November 16, 1880.

[18] Courrier de l’art, May 30, 1884, 270; Gaston Tissandier, “Les Soirées de dessin de Félix Regamey [sic],” La Nature, June 4, 1881.

[19] It is unclear exactly when Régamey was first hired. Nineteen inspectors were hired by the state in 1881. In unpublished transcripts of meetings held in 1876 to discuss drawing curriculum in French secondary education, one participant (Bardoux) demanded 51,000 francs to fund the employment of seventeen inspectors of drawing instruction. See Procès-verbaux des séances de la Commission de l’organisation de l’enseignement du dessin, 1876, in Procès-verbaux de Commissions 1876–1883, F21 7540, Archives Nationales, Paris. Whether or not Régamey was among those hired that year would require revisiting the archives. It is clear that he had the job as early as 1884, for in a text dating to 1884, the author notes that “M. F. Régamey a été nommé récemment inspecteur de l’enseignement du dessin dans les écoles de la ville de Paris.” See “Chronique,” Bulletin / Société historique et Cercle Saint-Simon (1884): 161.

[20] Significant strides in the history of French drawing education have been made. See Marie-Claude Genet-Delacroix and Claude Troger, Du dessin aux arts plastiques, histoire d’un enseignement (Orléans, France: C. R. D. P. de la Région Centre, 1994); Stéphane Laurent, L’Art utile: Les Écoles d’arts appliqués sous le Second Empire et la Troisième République (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998); Stéphane Laurent, Les Arts appliqués en France: Genèse d’un enseignement (Paris: Éditions du C.T.H.S., 1999); Renaud d’Enfert, L’Enseignement du dessin en France: Figure humaine et dessin géométrique (1750–1850) (Paris: Belin, 2003); Alain Bonnet, L’Enseignement des arts au XIXe siècle: La Réforme de l’École des beaux-arts de 1863 et la fin du modèle académique (Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2006); Dominique Poulot, Jean-Miguel Pire, and Alain Bonnet, eds., L’Éducation artistique en France du modèle académique et scolaire aux pratiques actuelles XVIIIe-XXIe siècles (Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2010); France Nerlich and Alain Bonnet, eds., Apprendre à peindre: Les Ateliers privés à Paris 1780–1863 (Tours, France: Presses Universitaires François-Rabelais, 2013); Alain Bonnet, Juliette Lavie, Julie Noirot, and Paul-Louis Rinuy, eds., Art et transmission: L’Atelier du XIXe au XXIe siècle (Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2014).

[21] For scholarship on Guillaume’s method and the notorious debates that ensued between Ravaisson and Guillaume, see Gérard Monnier, L’Art et ses institutions en France: De la Révolution à nos jours (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), 234–35; Laurent, Les Arts appliqués en France, 124–25; Genet-Delacroix and Troger, Du dessin aux arts plastiques, histoire d’un enseignement, 322–23; Bonnet, “L’Introduction du dessin dans le système public d’enseignement au XIXe siècle,” in Art et Transmission, 263–28; d’Enfert, L’Enseignement du dessin en France, 175–56; Molly Nesbit, “Ready-Made Originals: The Duchamp Model,” October 27 (Summer 1986): 53–64; Molly Nesbit, Their Common Sense (London: Black Dog Publishing Limited, 2000); Jimena Canales, “Movement before Cinematography: The High-Speed Qualities of Sentiment,” Journal of Visual Culture 5, no. 3 (2006): 275–94.

[22] L. G. [Louis Guébin], “L’Enseignement actuel du dessin: Son esprit, ses conséquences,” Revue des arts décoratifs 13 (1892–93): 121; and E. Pottier et M. Servier, Conseil aux instituteurs sur les nouveaux programmes de l’enseignement du dessin (Paris: Hachette, 1909); II as cited by Renaud d’Enfert and Myriam Boyer, “Le Dessin s’émancipe: Vers un nouvel équilibre? (1909–années 1960),” in Un Art pour tous: Le Dessin à l’école de 1800 à nos jours (Paris: Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, 2004), 66.

[23] O. Brunet, “L’Enseignement du dessin dans le secondaire, 1852–1946: Émergence et évolution de la discipline,” Mémoire de DEA en sciences de l’éducation à l’Université Paris V, 79, cited in d’Enfert and Boyer, “Le dessin s’émancipe,” 66.

[24] “Association amicale des professeurs de dessin de la ville de Paris,” Chronique du journal général de l’imprimerie et de la librairie, January 4, 1890, 4; Pamphlet, “Félix Régamey, ‘Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin,’” Box F21 4336, Folder “Régamey, Félix,” Archives Nationales, Paris.

[25] Nonetheless, his important contributions to pedagogical discourses did not go completely unrecognized by his contemporaries. By the turn of the century, they were familiar not only with his older work, but also with his more recent publications on pedagogical philosophy and practice (published in 1906 as a manual titled Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin). See Louis Vauxcelles, “Félix Régamey,” Gil Blas, May 7, 1907, 1; and Félix Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin (Paris: Bernard, 1906).

[26] Vauxcelles, “Félix Régamey,” 1.

[27] “La faute capitale de la méthode qui est en honneur aujourd’hui en France—la géométrique—est de favoriser les spéculations de l’esprit au détriment de l’organe de la vision, l’œil, dont le développement importe avant tout, et exige une culture spéciale, plus nécessaire que celle de la main certainement.” See Félix Régamey, “Le Dessin à l’école primaire,” in Préface, patronage, comités, adhésions, conférences préparatoire, programme, discours d’ouverture, travaux, résolutions, rapport général, ed. IIIe Congrès international de l’Art Public, 1–7 (published in conjunction with the Exposition Universelle de Liége, 1905); “Séances Plénières: Rapport sur les travaux de la première section,” in Préface, patronage, comités . . . , 1.

[28] Félix Régamey, Le Japon pratique (Paris: J. Heizel et Cie, 1891). He likewise published an article on Japanese drawing techniques, see Félix Régamey, “Le Dessin d’après les Japonais,” Supplément au Petit français illustré: Journal des écoliers et des écolières 127, August 1, 1891, n.p.

[29] “La mère ou le maître guide l’enfant, non en lui conduisant la main, comme chez nous, mais en tenant par le bout du manche, le pinceau qu’il dirige,” he declared. “On enseigne de même à dessiner; ces deux études sont simultanées.”⁠ Régamey, Le Japon pratique, 170.

[30] Régamey, Le Japon pratique, 238.

[31] Félix Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio (Paris: Atelier F. Régamey, 1899). When Régamey traveled to Japan to pursue comparative art pedagogy, it was not the first time the state commissioned him to assess foreign drawing models; because of his strong background in the English language, he also reviewed US art and design programs two decades earlier. In 1879, Régamey traveled to the United States for the second time to study existing systems of drawing instruction. This project culminated in the publication of L’Enseignement du dessin aux Etats-Unis: Notes et documents in 1881, a summary of the various drawing systems deployed in public schools, art academies, and technical institutes in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Saint Louis, Chicago, and Washington.⁠ “De l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, comme de ce côté-ci,” Régamey notes in his evaluation of US education, the state of drawing instruction “est devenu pour les esprits éclairés la grande préoccupation du moment” (now has become, for enlightened minds, a huge concern). See Régamey, L’Enseignement du dessin aux Etats-Unis: Notes et documents (Paris: Librairie Ch. Delagrave, 1881), 10.

[32] Patricia Mainardi, The End of the Salon: Art and the State in the Early Third Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

[33] Victoria Weston, Japanese Painting and National Identity: Okakura and His Circle (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2004).

[34] Weston, Japanese Painting and National Identity, 63.

[35] While Japan was not an official colony to any Western nation, the state’s assimilation of foreign customs was motivated by force; in 1853, Commodore Perry arrived with military backing to ensure the acceptance of trade agreements. For recent scholarship on Japan’s political and cultural history in the second half of the nineteenth century, see Mark Ravina, To Stand with the Nations of the World: Japan’s Meiji Restoration in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

[36] Weston, Japanese Painting and National Identity, 63.

[37] In the United Kingdom, attendance became compulsory in 1880 for children under ten years of age. In the United States, Massachusetts enacted the first legislation geared toward the institution of universal public schooling in 1852 (some states did not adopt similar measures until the 1920s, however).

[38] Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio; Régamey also used the second trip as opportunity to publish more illustrated texts on Japanese culture. These texts summarized Japanese artistic formation and culture for Western audiences; whereas Régamey authored the comparative pedagogy essay for French instructors and politicians eager to assess alternative methods of training in a rapidly globalizing market for industrial design and art, Le Japon en images offered French popular audiences insight into the daily lives and customs of the Japanese. See Régamey, Japon (Paris: P. Paclot, 1900); Régamey, Le Japon en images (Paris: Paclot, 1900). An excerpt from the 1899 publication was also published as an article. See Félix Régamey, “L’Enseignement du dessin dans les écoles de filles au Japon,” Revue des arts décoratifs, 1900, 113–124. There is evidence to suggest that he also held an exhibition in Paris at the Cercle de la Librairie, 117, boulevard Saint-Germain, in conjunction with his findings. See “Concours et expositions: Expositions nouvelles,” La Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, July 19, 1902, 212.

[39] For more on drawing instruction in nineteenth-century Japan, see Brenda G. Jordan, “Copying from Beginning to End? Student Life in the Kano School,” Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets, 31–59.

[40] For example, years earlier, he hesitated to support the standardization of drawing regimes and celebrated the diversity of methods found in the United States. Far from being singular in scope, he believed that drawing techniques should correspond to their application. This belief emerged most conspicuously in the conclusion of his examination of US drawing pedagogy, which discussed his findings relative to the status quo in France: “Très judicieusement on pense que le moyen d’intéresser sérieusement les villes au développement des écoles de dessin n’est pas de leur imposer un enseignement uniforme . . . Approprié aux besoins de la production locale, cet enseignement a bien plus de chance d’être apprécié”⁠ (We wisely think that the way to seriously motivate cities to erect drawing schools is not to impose a uniform teaching model on them . . . [If the lessons] cater to the demands of local production, they are more likely to be appreciated). See Régamey, L’Enseignement du dessin aux États-Unis, 119. He was quoted asking a similar question in Commission d’enquête sur la situation des ouvriers et des industries d’art: Instituée par décret en date du 24 décembre 1881 (Paris: Imprimerie de A. Quantin, 1884). “Vous pensez bien que l’enseignement du dessin est unique; vous demandez qu’on apprenne le dessin, indépendamment de la préoccupation de la matière à laquelle on devra l’appliquer?” (You imagine drawing education is unique; you ask that we learn to draw without consideration of its practical applications?) (p. 123).

[41] Ravina, To Stand with the Nations of the World.

[42] At the same time many thinkers, such as Régamey and Guimet, were outspoken opponents of the importation of Western styles and procedures to Japan, there was an equally heated debate in Japanese artistic circles about the sterility of traditional studio models. In reaction to both the dissatisfaction with Western and seasoned Japanese models, a competing pedagogical philosophy emerged in Japanese artistic discourses that called for a new system, one that could better cultivate national identity. Beginning in the 1880s, the idea that art should support a uniquely Japanese national identity led to the emergence of new pedagogical regimens across Japan. An outspoken proponent of such measures was Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908), an American who was employed as a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University in 1878. Though he was hired to teach political economy, Fenollosa became increasingly preoccupied with the state of artistic production in Japan and its associated reform. Fenollosa not only recommended dispensing with the drawing systems imported from the United States and Western Europe, but he also encouraged the modernization of existing drawing systems to better reflect what the Japanese saw as their national identity. Alongside Okakura Kakuzo, he established a curriculum at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko; now known as the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku). The task of this institution was, as noted by Régamey, to “conserver et de développer l’art caractéristisque du Japon” (conserve and develop art that is characteristic of Japan). See Weston, Japanese Painting and National Identity, 59; and Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement, 49.

[43] Ellen Conant, Nihonga Transcending the Past: Japanese-Style Painting, 1868–1968 (Saint Louis, MO: The Saint Louis Art Museum, 1995), 6.

[44] Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 22.

[45] “sans toutefois donner de résultats bien marqués.” Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 22.

[46] “dépourvus d’intérêt.” Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 7.

[47] Guimet and Régamey, Promenades japonaises: Tokio-Nikko, 113.

[48] “Au moment où nous introduisons au Japon les moeurs, les usages, les coutumes et les arts de l’Occident, aurais-je la ridicule pretention de vous engager à soumettre l’art français à l’art japonais?” Ernest Chesneau, L’Art japonais: Conférence faite à l’Union centrale des beaux-arts appliqués à l’industrie (Paris: A. Morel, 1869), 27–28.

[49] An exception is Dandona’s Nature and Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France.

[50] For a brief introduction this concept, see Vanessa Schwartz, “Civilization and Empire,” in Modern France: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 40–45.

[51] Gabriel Weisberg, “Lost and Found: S. Bing’s Merchandising of Japonisme and Art Nouveau,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 4, no. 2 (Summer 2005),; Gabriel Weisberg, “Philippe Burty and Early Japonisme,” in Japonisme in Art: An International Symposium (Tokyo: Committee for the Year 2001, 1980), 109–25; Gabriel Weisberg, The Independent Critic: Philippe Burty and the Visual Arts of Mid-Nineteenth-Century France (New York: P. Lang, 1993); Gabriel Weisberg et al., Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French Art, 1854–1910 (Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1975); Dandona, Nature and the Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France.

[52] “Le vieux Japon s’écroule, la civilisation marche à grand pas—comme on dit—les lampes à pétrole, les gibus, et les parapluies sévissent assez généralement.”⁠ Omoto and Macouin, Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde, 66.

[53] “J’assiste à la fin de ce monde merveilleux, artistique, poétique, plein de douceur qui s’en va sombrer dans le sombre fatras de la civilization.” Omoto and Macouin, Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde, 68.

[54] “C’est à faire dresser les cheveux sur la tête du plus chauve des rapins.” Omoto and Macouin, Quand le Japon s’ouvrit au monde, 68.

[55] This text was published first in La Plume in October 1893.

[56] Loti’s text was first published in installments in Le Figaro (1887), then as a book in 1888.

[57] Reed, introduction, 1.

[58] Reed, introduction, 31.

[59] Régamey, The Chrysanthème Papers, 153.

[60] Régamey, The Chrysanthème Papers, 68–69.

[61] Régamey, The Chrysanthème Papers, 68–69.

[62] It is no coincidence that these skills were also the same championed by Régamey’s own instructor, Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. Around forty years after he enrolled in Lecoq’s studio at the Petite École, Régamey penned the first and only biography dedicated exclusively to the life and legacy of his teacher. See Félix Régamey, Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran et ses élèves, notes et souvenirs (Paris: H. Champion, 1903).

[63] Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 40.

[64] Félix Régamey, Japan in Art and Industry: With a Glance at Japanese Manners and Customs, trans. M. French Sheldon and Eli Lemon Sheldon (London: G. P. Putnam Sons, 1893), 22–23.

[65] Régamey, Japan in Art and Industry, 21–22; Félix Régamey, “Le Japon vu par un artiste,” Revue politique et littéraire: Revue bleu, 1890, 652.

[66] In the second half of the nineteenth century, this perspective became very common among artists known for “primitivism,” most famously in Gauguin’s descriptions of Tahiti.

[67] Régamey, Japan in Art and Industry, 24.

[68] Régamey, Japan in Art and Industry, 23–24.

[69] Régamey, Japan in Art and Industry, 25.

[70] A major proponent of the serpentine line in the second half of the nineteenth century was the philosopher and pedagogical theorist Félix Ravaisson. See Tullio Viola, “The Serpentine Life of Félix Ravaisson: Art, Drawing, Scholarship, and Philosophy,” in Et in Imagine Ego: Facetten von Bildakt und Verkörperung, ed. Markus Rath and Ulrike Feist (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2012), 155–74.

[71] Régamey, “Le Dessin d’après les Japonais,” n.p.

[72] Régamey, “Le Dessin d’après les Japonais,” n.p.

[73] Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin.

[74] Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, 12; Régamey, “Le dessin à l’école primaire,” 1–7.

[75] Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, 16.

[76] “Alors que vous ne sauriez-vous remémorer le détail des traits du visage d’un de vos amis éloignés; que vous ne pourriez dire comment il a la barbe taillé et même s’il en a; que, par conséquent, fussiez-vous bon peintre, il vous serait impossible d’en donner une image ressemblante, le ‘je ne sais quoi’ qui distingue cet homme des autres hommes fera, que, du plus loin que vous l’apercevrez, vous le reconnaîtrez instantanément. C’est le triomphe du sentiment—de la physionomie.” Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, 20.

[77] For the ways that visual memory could abstract, see Petra Ten-Doesschate Chu, Eye, Memory, Hand: The Nineteenth-Century Debate about the Role of Visual Memory in the Creative Process (Groningen, Netherlands: The Gerson Lectures Foundation, 2011).

[78] Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, 16–17.

[79] Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, 22.

[80] “C’est aux prix d’un travail persistant que le Conscient, alimentant l’Inconscient, lui fournit les réflexes nécessaires au perfectionnement du pouvoir d’expression.” Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, 22–23.

[81] Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 19.

[82] Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 19.

[83] Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 18.

[84] Régamey, Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin; Ch. L., “L’Enseignement du dessin (Ce qu’il est, ce qu’il doit être),” La Construction moderne, March 29, 1902, 307–8.

[85] “Vouloir substituer de toutes pièces notre art de peindre à celui des japonais, serait une faute,—j’allais dire un crime.” Régamey, Le Dessin et son enseignement dans les écoles de Tokio, 48.

[86] “Il ne suffit pas de s’en tenir à la superficie des choses, et l’adoption irréfléchie de formules neuves est tout aussi pernicieuses qu’est paralysante la copie servile des oeuvres du passé.” Régamey, Le Japon en images (Paris: Paclot, 1900), n.p.

[87] On page 37 of Le Problème de l’enseignement du dessin, Régamey wrote: “Frappés des résultats surprenants obtenus par les aquarellistes japonais, quelques personnes ne sont demandé s’il n’y aurait pas avantage à appliquer le pinceau à l’étude. Vaine illusion. Ce procédé favorise la production, il ne convient pas à la recherche. Ces deux actes bien distincts, sont trop souvent confondus. C’est pour n’avoir pas tenu un compte suffisant de cette distinction que la plupart des méthodes d’enseignement actuelles pêchent par la base” (Some people, struck by the surprising results obtained by Japanese watercolorists, wondered if it would be advantageous to submit the brush to the same regimen. Vain illusion. This process privileges production and is not suitable for research. These two acts are often confused, but are distinct. Most current teaching methods are flawed from the start because they do not take into account this distinction).

[88] “Qui dit Art dit Civilisation. La civilisation marche à pas lents et le temps détruit rapidement ce qu’on a fait sans lui. / C’est par l’enchaînement des travaux accumulés des générations que le progrès s’achève.” Régamey, Japon en images, n.p.

[89] As noted by Dandona, “The idea of a continually developing art was also particularly attractive to French critics who believed that historicism had interrupted the natural evolution of styles and thus prevented the development of a modern style that responded to contemporary needs.” Dandona, Nature and Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France, 63.

[90] In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, similar ideas emerged in discussions of Kunstwollen and artistic volition by Alois Riegl (1858–1905) and Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968). See Alois Riegl, Late Roman Art Industry, trans. Rolf Winkes (Rome: G. Bretschneider, 1985); Erwin Panofsky, “The Concept of Artistic Volition,” trans. Kenneth J. Northcott and Joel Snyder, Critical Inquiry 8, no. 1 (1981): 17–33. It likewise came to inform Gombrich’s interpretation of stylistic change in art history. See Ernst Gombrich, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (New York: Pantheon Books, 1960). Of course, some of these ideas harken back to ideas which predate the popularity of Kunstwollen. See Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of Fine Art, trans. F. P. B. Osmaston, 4 vols. (New York: Hacker Art Books, 1975).

[91] Jules Pillet, “L’Enseignement artistique au vieux Japon,” L’Art pour tous: Encyclopédie de l’art industriel et décoratif, June 1903, n.p.

[92] “L’art est toujours en perpétuelle genèse, il se transforme sans cesse, il modifie les factures pour les maintenir en harmonie avec les nécessités nouvelles de l’existence; mais il ne se crée pas de toute pièce telle Minerve sortant tout armée du front de Jupiter. Un style ne s’invente pas, il n’existe que par une suite de l’évolution naturelle de l’Art!” Pillet, “L’Enseignement Artistique au vieux Japon,” n.p.

[93] “Avant de songer au portrait fidèle de la nature, les hommes ont cherché tout d’abord à fixer une silhouette simple, le souvenir des êtres et des choses: l’hiéroglyphe se transformera par la suite et fera souche en deux branches bien distinctes; simplifié à l’excès, le linéament transformé en clé ou en lettre constituera l’élément nécessaire à tout langage écrit, enjolivé au contraire, il se rapprochera mieux de la physionomie de l’objet naturel et deviendra la charpente du dessin artistique tel que nous le connaissons. Le symbole a précédé le portrait de ce qui nous entoure.” Pillet, “L’Enseignement artistique au vieux Japon,” n.p.

[94] Guimet and Régamey, Promenades japonaises: Tokio-Nikko, 169.

[95] “ont assimilé l’art calligraphique à l’art du dessin.” Régamey, Le Japon pratique, 165.

[96] “Au Japon tout le monde dessine.” Régamey, Le Japon pratique, 26–27.

[97] “Malgré la différence des mœurs et des époques, malgré les divergences de races, l’esprit humain semble toujours identique à lui-même; et, pour représenter la nature, tout en se pliant à des nécessités diverses, en respectant des conventions souvent opposées, les maîtres de tous les pays ont toujours enseignés les mêmes bons principes: aussi plus d’un jeune artiste, rêvant de créer un art nouveau ou un nouveau style, ferait bien de méditer et de respecter les règles souvent si judicieuses des vieux professeurs chinois et japonais.” Pillet, “L’Enseignement Artistique au vieux Japon,” n.p.

[98] Eugène Guillaume, “De l’esthétique dans l’enseignement de l’art,” Gazette des beaux-arts (1886): 280–98.

[99] Guillaume, “De l’esthétique dans l’enseignement de l’art,” 280–98.

[100] Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Later Art (1915), trans. M. D. Hottinger (New York: Dover Publications, 1950).

[101] I thank Matthew Hunter for drawing my attention to this passage from Wölfflin and for helping to clarify the distinction between Régamey’s and formalist approaches to art history.

[102] Clare Carlisle, On Habit: Thinking in Action (New York: Routledge, 2014).

[103] “Coutume est objectif, c’est-à-dire indique une manière d’être générale à laquelle nous nous conformons. Au contraire, habitude est subjectif, c’est-à-dire indique une manière d’être qui nous est personnelle et qui détermine nos actions. L’habitude devient un besoin; mais la coutume ne le devient jamais. Cependant on dira également: j’ai la coutume ou j’ai l’habitude de prendre du café, avec cette nuance cependant que avoir la coutume exprime seulement le fait que je prends ordinairement du café, tandis que avoir l’habitude exprime qu’un certain besoin s’y join.” Émile Littré, “Coutume,” in Dictionnaire de la langue française, 2nd ed. (Paris: Hachette, 1872–77).

[104] For instance, one such theory was written by the French psychologist and philosopher Léon Dumont (1837–77) and published as “De l’habitude” in Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger (1876).

[105] These include Hering, Butler, Haeckle, among others. See Matt Matsuda, The Memory of the Modern (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 9; Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1977), 96–97; For a related history, see Laura Otis, Organic Memory: History and the Body in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995). In the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries, it also was not uncommon to adopt the vocabulary of evolution to describe stylistic change in the arts. Many found it profitable to describe such transformations as “inherited” or “acquired” traits, as a kind of “natural selection” that took place among existing representational conventions.