WILHELM HEINE AND ORIENTALISM (Excerpt) / Risako Tominaga

 

  1. Orientalism Studies and P. B. W. Heine

             Peter Bernhard Wilhelm Heine (1827-1885) was not just a skilled artist who came to Japan accompanying Commodore Mathew Perry’s expedition in 1852-54 and Eulenburg’s expedition in 1860-61, but also a man with an enthusiasm, kindness, leadership, and good luck. He was born in Dresden, Prussia, on 30 January, 1827, as a son of an actor, of Royal Hoftheater. Having had an opportunity to study stage art in Paris, he worked as a painter of stage design there, and he was so successful that he had a lifelong contract with the Saxony king, Friedrich August Ⅱ. He returned to Paris after participating in the May Uprising in Dresden of 1849 and went to New York. His life in Dresden and Paris was such an artistic and also laborious one. Because Wilhelm’s father, Ferdinand, was an old friend of the famous songwriter, Richard Wagner, the two families enhanced each other in the world of the stage, where they were all dedicated to as their jobs. Wilhelm Heine, who received a scholarship from the Academy that sent him Paris for three years, came home shocked by the February Revolution of Paris in 1848. At the same time, citizens in the surrounding countries were causing uprisings from place to place, ignoring constitutions and congresses, and on May 3rd, 1849, it came to Dresden, where Heine and Wagner were ones of the leading members. They also encountered the legendary revolutionist, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin, whom Heine never expected to run into later in Yokohama. Arriving in November of the same year, he opened an art school at 515 Broadway. Heine and his friend Julius Kummer were one of the first to spread landscape-and-genre, traveling North America (Trautmann, 1990, 10). Continuous fates that Heine faced led him worldwide.

After he settled in New York, his career as an artist started to bloom. He met E. G. Squier, a journalist and a diplomat of Central America in New York, who was famous for his archaeological books and gave him an opportunity to go to Central America and sketch for new archaeological book of Central America. He was offered to bring official documents regarding trading agreements to Washington, which connected him with President Fillmore who later introduced Heine to Commodore Mathew Perry. “Custom dictated, the government wanted, and the public expected from Perry a graphic as well as a literary document of the expedition” (1990, 9), which resulted in Perry taking M. Brown, Jr. and W. Heine to his voyage after Perry’s orders passed in November of 1852. Using skills obtained at the Royal Academy of Art in J. Hübner’s studio in Dresden and in Paris, Heine worked to “collect zoological specimens, especially birds, and painted and drew them for the record” (4, 9-10). Although positions of the expedition to Japan which Heine heard of were mostly full, Perry favorably admitted Heine to join it as master’s mate and let him record what he would see and also do “the normal duties of his rank such as standing watch, keeping the log, issuing food and water, distributing munitions, etc.” (Trautmann, 1990 as cited in Szipple, 1990, 72). Heine’s excellent skills as an artist was admitted internationally.

 

Orientalism in Travel Literature

“Orientalism” which began to be used after Edward Said’s publication of Orientalism in 1978, mainly indicates the expansion of Orientalism beyond Islamic lands, and is estimated to have started during the eighteenth century. Those who made voyages from the West to the East are often categorized as Orientalists. Said did not ignore it but mentioned that as Europeans such as Cook, Adanson and French traders went across many different borders, travel literature gave broader perspectives (1990, 117). Heine’s first publication regarding Japan, “Reise um die Erde nach Japan” (1856) is in a broad category of travel literature. It is one of the first literary sources of Japan by a Western author, published earlier than later books, although it has hardly been cited in other scholarly sources.

Because it was the opening of Japan that allowed the country to step into the global field, many studies of cross-cultural arts began from this event. The translator of Heine’s memoir, Frederic Trautmann, likewise sees Heine within the long history of art and says in the introduction,

By showing what Japan looks like, by portraying it at the time expedition excited curiosity in Japan and all the Orient, Heine’s pictures probably more than anything else quickened the West’s interest in Oriental art and inspired the fancy for chinoiserie, coromandel screens, Orientalism, japanware, japonisme, and Japanese prints. Things Oriental interested and influenced Degas, Whistler, and Van Gogh, Zola and Goncourt, and the lesser artists who followed them. (Trautmann, 1990, 19)

Indeed, after Japan was opened for international trades, Japanese artwork very much influenced Western arts and changed the forms of art especially in the late 19th century. Europe, where Japanese items only via the Dutch route were previously available, expanded the ways for each country, and the shorter history in American art enriched itself by merging influences from both Europe and Japan. Cross-cultural art studies of that period also flourished by welcoming Japan, which mostly started from mentioning the opening of Japan as the origin of those studies. In Europe, Art Nouveau from the 1880’s still possessed botanical and oriental essence that came from Orientalism, and the US developed its art industry and multi-cultural nation, which both raised the discussion of Aestheticism too. Thus, to go back to the origins of these huge impacts, Heine’s works brought to the US were, as Trautmann emphasized, surely ones of the earliest things Japanese that hugely affected the later movements of art.

Among those scholars, there were many who made direct connections between Perry’s arrival in Japan and travel literatures of Orientalism. For example, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, R. H. Minear, the author adds a perspective of Orientalism to Japan’s international history in “Orientalism and the Study of Japan” (1980). He asserts that Japan’s international relationship with the West has not been the same as that of between the West and the Orient, comparing with the ideas of other scholars such as Basil Hall Chamberlain, George B. Sansom and Edwin O. Reischauer. He also makes connection with Napoleon’s expedition as an example of Orientalism; “Matthew Perry’s Narrative of the Expedition (1856) may bear superficial resemblance to Napoleon’s Descriptive de l’Égypte (1809-1828); but we look in vain for a colonial overload like Britain’s Lord Cromer” (1980, 514). Trautmann in the introduction also mentions Captain Cook, who took an artist John Webber on his voyage early in 1819 as a former successful example of a traveler who took an artist to voyage. Orientalism that were seen in relationships between European countries and the East can be compared with the relationship between Japan and America which opened Japan from its closure. Although Trautmann uses the word “Orientalism”, his works that first made access to Japanese sceneries, people, and culture with his actual visit and excellent artistic skills for the Westerns, he was not what was popularly called an Orientalist who would be motivated to conquer the East.

 

  1. Heine and American Orientalism

This chapter will analyze Heine as a crew member of Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan and as a US citizen by comparing American Orientalism. The analysis will lead readers to understand Heine’s contribution to the US and also some distance from American Orientalism. Said says in the introduction of Orientalism, “Americans will not feel quite the same about the Orient, which for them is much more likely to be associated very differently with the Far East (China and Japan, mainly)” (1990, 1). Because of the unstable condition of Europe in the late 1840s, Heine moved to New York in 1849. After working as an illustrator of Central America, Heine became a “master-mate” of the Commodore and accompanied the Expedition. He worked hard on depicting especially landscapes most of which were later inserted into Perry’s official report. Many of the rest were later published by Heine himself.

 

“Others” of the American

It is important to emphasize that America’s advance into the Orient is not the same as Said’s European Orientalism into the East. He insists, “Americans will not feel quite the same about the Orient, which for them is much more likely to be associated very differently with the Far East (1978, 1). The point of American Orientalism that scholars have been discussing is that American Orientalism was to seek for their own identity by distinguishing “themselves” and “others” in other words, “Japan”, “China”, “Loo Choo”, “Macao”, “Asia” and so on.

Kendall Johnson (2013) introduces “American Orientalism” which helped to create American identity by observing Heine’s Protestant Grave Yard in comparison with ideas of both Jim Egan’s Oriental Shadows: The Presence of the East in Early American Literature (2011) and American Orient: Imagining the East from the Colonial Era through the Twentieth Century by David Weir (2011). According to their determination of “American Orientalism”, America’s activity in those areas called “the Orient” are different from European trans-national activities of Orientalism. Egan focuses on that Anglo-Americans were living in the culture created for Europeans’ desire, framing Said’s concept of the East as the Other. While there are similarities in both Egan’s and Weir’s ideas, Johnson mentions that Weir’s perspective is not as Euro-centric as Egan’s. He differentiates Said’s Orientalism from the activities of American diplomats and voyages in that while “Europeans were mainly intent on overcoming the Oriental in some actual East, Americans wished instead not to overcome but to become, to experience the Oriental in themselves” (13), which “can only be called American Orient” (13) (Weir, as cited in Johnson, 2013, 641). Both of the authors agree that American cultures were different from Europe or Eastern parts of the world. Johnson introduces Samuel Wells Williams as an example of an American Orientalist who participated in Perry’s expedition. After participating in a missionary in Canton in 1830s and Perry’s expedition and publishing significant records of the Eastern cultures, Williams taught Chinese language and Chinese literature at Yale University as the first professor (Johnson, 2013). Although Kendall thus claims that American Orientalism is applied to Heine’s work, it seems that American Orientalism started later in American history.

 

Heine’s Depiction during the Expedition

Depiction in Heine’s drawing technique gradually took distance from American Orientalism. Heine’s illustrations that were brought back to America seem to have allowed Heine himself to be immersed in Japanese culture. His depiction of Japanese landscapes used for early documents of Perry’s report, are close to what can be seen in other Oriental arts drawn by European artists, but gradually his illustrations became as if they were done by Japanese artists. As Dower (2008) also mentions, “he turned his brush (and also drawing pencil) to a few religious statues and monuments, but again with restraint and respect―a striking contrast to the more garish rendering of images of heathen deities that had appeared in Western publications prior to Perry’s arrival” (4-2). He also says, “So enraptured was Heine by the opportunity to immerse himself in new landscapes and cultures that, now and then, he even painted himself painting the scene being depicted” (4-1). His technique was not showing its superiority to Japanese aesthetics.

To begin with, the most familiar work about the Opening of Japan by Heine, Commodore Perry Coming Ashore at Yokohama, shows both historical information in a realistic way and a bit of inferiority in terms of civilization. It seems that this painting was made after a sketch on site, watercolor and lithograph. Those different versions look slightly different as the artist or assistant became apart from the actual site. Unlike the art works of Middle Eastern Orientalism by European artists, Japanese as the main subject can be identified with the costume, architecture on both sides, and the flags of the shogunate groups. The colors are very natural, and each object is observed well, which seems to come from Heine’s experience in producing landscape and specimens in Dresden and Central America. The whole composition is obviously similar to the traditional landscape of Europe that newly adopted as a genre: three layers divided in the land, ocean, and sky, with architectural and out-of-frame natural objects on both the right and left sides. However, in terms of civilization, while Americans are formed into very clean lines, Japanese are dispersed into much smaller groups. In the middle, the most focused subjects can be told the couple of samurai, and dogs secondarily. Heine depicted dogs in other works too, such as View of Hakodate from Snow Peak and many other works of Hakodate inserted in Perry’s Narrative. Because they run around the Japanese officials who gave impressions of politeness, it shows some paradoxical laziness. Whereas Heine was the most realistic and truthful artist of the squadron, it cannot be denied that he was fascinated by these differences that reflected some “exoticism” of Japan.

Heine indeed appreciated the aesthetics of landscape, cultures, and traditions of Japan. Although Mount Fuji was not as famous as it became after the opening of Japan, Heine much admired the spectacular power of the mountain. Approaching the Edo Bay after leaving from Naha on July 2nd, Heine described Mt. Fuji that he saw in the morning; “We observed the truncated cone, the shape of all volcanoes, its rim some forty to fifty feet above the core. The light-colored stripes and patches―were they snow or bright sand? We could not tell the difference, what with vapor and haze” (Trautmann, 1990, 64). Considering the fact that Mt. Fuji became a stereotypical symbol of Japan after European people established photo studios in Yokohama, and many images of Mt. Fuji went abroad in 1860s, Heine’s depiction of the mountain might have delivered the first sight of it to Americans. Whether it can be proved or not, depicting this largest mountain of Japan would not make the country look “inferior.”

Amazingly, after Perry’s expedition, Heine enlisted in the Civil War. When Heine learned of the war breaking out in the US, he was in Tianjin as a member of Eulenburg’s Expedition from Germany. He questioned himself whether he should go back to the US as an American citizen but ended up staying and going back to Nagasaki on a British ship (Nakai, 1983, 37-38). As Heine went back to New York from the port at San Francisco, passing St. Louis by land route, he was shocked at the disaster. Taking only one day off in New York, Heine decided to fight in the army of the North, while preparing for publication about the Expedition. After the war was over, he was charged in councils in Paris and Liverpool. Participation in the expeditions as an artist broadened his career too.

As a result, Wilhelm Heine largely contributed himself to form Americans’ original identity throughout Perry’s Expedition to Japan which can be associated with American Orientalism discussed in this chapter, but his own identity could not be figured out by adopting the frame of American Orientalism. Although Heine enjoyed exploring the different land, he did not see Japanese as “inferior”. The depiction would not be categorized as “American art” neither, and was independent in communicating with Japanese. Heine’s perspective of Orientalism and his identity will be continued by reconsidering with German Orientalism and Eulenburg’s Expedition.

 

  • Heine and German Orientalism

This chapter will seek Heine’s identity as a German by framing it with German Orientalism and analyzing the way he saw Japan. Remarkably, he successfully made a second visit to Japan in Eulenburg’s Expedition, but his special attachment to his homeland and background there can be seen in Perry’s Expedition as well. Said chronologizes German Orientalism before American’s appeared. Mentioning that studies of German Orientalism started from emulating the imperialism of Britain and France, “yet what German Orientalism had in common with Anglo-French and later American Orientalism was a kind of intellectual authority over the Orient within Western culture” (1978, 19). Having as the story of Heine suggests, many Germans at that time were keen to make revolutions. Including this feature, the following discussion will explore what were imbedded in Heine’s mind throughout his life in Germany, America, and Japan.

 

Artistic Communities in Dresden and Paris

While American Orientalism discussed in the previous chapter raises a form of American identity by orientating “others”, Heine had not been ready to seek his own identity as an American. To write about Heine, his great effort and dedication to his home in Dresden, before leaving for the US, cannot be ignored. Heine family’s life in Dresden was hugely relevant to the famous composer, Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-83), who was an old friend of Heine’s father, Ferdinand. Wagner’s documentations include experiences and memories with Heine too. In 1848, he came home from Paris, where he learned scenic art with a scholarship from the Academy, with a shock in the February Revolution (Wagner, 1983, 379). The Revolutionaries had a lot of famous artists, actors and actresses, and musicians, including Heine and Wagner. It was the two of them that kept on ringing a bell on a church when the committee of defense in Dresden decided to attack. Then, Wagner encountered the legendary revolutionist from Russia, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (1814-1876) who engaged in this revolution and met Heine in Japan while Bakunin absconded in an exile. On May 7th 1849, Heine and Wagner evacuated to France. Wagner went back to Dresden for a month, while Heine stayed with his master in Paris, Despléchin (1802-70). A letter Wagner sent to Ferdinand Heine records that because the son Heine found that he would not be able to do anything in Europe, he was determined to leave for the US at the end of June. In the fall, he arrived in New York to be a so-called Forty Eighter (refugee from the revolutions) in US history. Because Heine fortunately met the archaeologist E. G. Squier (1821-1888), who sent Heine to Central America, he could step into such an explorative life (Nakai, 1983, 26-36). His experience with a number of European artists and as one of the revolutionists must not have been forgotten and should have been embedded deeply in his identity. Heine soon met Commodore M. Perry and left for Japan shortly after he started living in New York, which resulted in having no time to accustom himself to life in the US.

Encountering many beautiful landscapes that he never encountered before throughout the voyage, Heine recalled picturesque sceneries seen in his home country, Germany. While he was very excited to see many ports of the states passing by, he at the same time wondered, “Although cheerful and in the highest spirits, I felt sad, too, and heavy of my heart. Back but briefly in civilization, without time to renew friendships, without even testing peace and quiet, I was leaving for distant shores and hungry for new adventures” (Trautmann, 1990, 28). His decision to work as a part of a US missionary also brought him a challenge with his loneliness over his ambition. When he arrived at Ogasawara Islands (“Bonin Island” in Heine’s word) on June 16th in 1853, he was amazed by the wilderness and purity of the lands. In the diary, he describes the biggest island, “To me it seemed I had suddenly entered upon one of the beautiful inland lakes of upper Bavaria [Germany] or around Salzburg [Austria]…These grottolike, domed arches, illuminated by reflections of a noonday sun, remind me of majestic Gothic cathedrals in my native land (Heine, 1990, 50).” This reflection to a work can be seen in Natural Tunnel, Port Lloyd, Bonin island. The top of the cave is pointed, which emphasizes the ‘Gothic’ feature, and the lighting effects are used as closer to the exits. This analysis clearly shows his sophisticated education that he had gone through in the artistic environment in Dresden and Paris. These references and memories confirm that Heine was brought up in European education that had formed not an American identity but rather a German identity that would link to German Orientalism. Those voyagers must have influenced Heine’s vision of the world overseas.

 

Eulenburg’s Expedition

After Japan opened Kanagawa, Nagasaki, and Hakodate ports, the Prussian Expeditioners arrived in Edo bay on 4 September of 1860 including Heine, Albert Berg and a photographer, Carl Bismarck. Having had an adventurous experience in Japan, Heine was eager to return to Japan again as a member of his home country. The Prussian East Asian Expedition in 1860-61 was directed by Count Friedrich zu Eulenburg, which voyaged from the Kingdom of Prussia to Japan, China and Siam. When arriving in Japan first, the members consisted of scholars, Ferdinand von Richthofen, Max Wichura and Karl Eduard von Martens, two well-traveled artists, Albert Berg and Wilhelm Heine who had also accompanied with Matthew C. Perry, and a twenty-year-old photographer, Carl Bismarck. As the only member that experienced exploring Japan before, Heine showed a strong leadership in this plan. It was Heine that suggested to take a photographer on the voyage in appreciation of his past experience with a daguerreotypist, Eliphalet Brown, who also made valuable works of scientific records in Perry’s expedition (Dobson, 2009). Although their attempt to record what they saw in Japan was not as easy a task as they expected, Heine’s past experience and understanding of Japan supported the other first visitors to communicate with Japanese locals in order to make them feel more comfortable with the strangers.

 

After the Expedition

Even after Eulenburg’s expedition, a part of Heine’s heart seems to have remained in Japan. When he heard of a great fire that burned the whole city of Edo, he immediately started working on a panorama landscape of Edo city.

I had the opportunity in the year 1869 to take panoramas of Edo (more recently named Tokyo) from various points with my assistants, Messrs, Wilson and Satcher. According to telegraphic reports, the largest part of the city, with half of the buildings of the castle, burned 30 November 1876. This event reminded me of what a treasure I possess in the views so faithfully taken and of the fact that I am in the position to bring something of interest before the public which cannot be represented again by the same means. (Heine, 1876, as cited in Dobson, 2011)

On May 7th in 1859, Heine gave a lecture at the Geographical Society in Berlin in a gloomy atmosphere, because of the news that the great scientist Alexander von Humboldt passed away the day before. In February, Heine, who shared great respect with Humboldt since before Perry’s expedition, received a letter from him about his critical condition in the US. He headed for Berlin soon, only to miss the last moment. Although Heine gained American nationality in 1855, “Heine soon made it clear in his lecture, it was not as an American, or even as a former subject of the Kingdom of Saxony, that he stood before the Geographical Society, but as a German” (Dobson, 2011, 82). How much Heine admired and thanked Humboldt can be seen in the preface of Reise mu die Erde nach Japan an Bord der Expeditions-Escadre unter Commodore M. C. Mathew Perry (1856). His death and the lecture might have brought Heine’s identity back to the home land.

 

Conclusion

Having considered Heine’s background and experience, he saw and depicted Japan differently than the European Orientalists that Said talked about. Although it cannot be denied that Japan was “others” for him, he saw some similarities in the way of German Orientalism. His way of sketching and painting in the European scenic art manner would be gradually eliminated as he was more and more engaged in Japan throughout the two Expeditions. The Japanese sceneries pictured by this artist who well understood Japanese people, culture, custom, and art recorded many historically important scenes for Japan, United States, and Germany. While “Japanese” or ”Oriental” Yokohama photographs that would capture scenes of typical or stereotypical Japanese images, such as samurais and women in kimono, became extremely popular and sold well after the Yokohama port opened, Heine depicted Japan authentically without attempts to aestheticize the reality or to depict inferiority that would make the audience feel authority over Japan. The results could be various for critical analysis by other researchers, but by examining Heine through German Orientalism as well as American Orientalism, his personal background and attachment to Japan became clearer. The transformation of his work also symbolized changes in Heine’s own identity which was not acquired in the dichotomy between American and German.

American Orientalism allowed this research to explore the American aspect of Heine. Although Heine gained an American citizenship, his background in Germany was always reminiscent. Not only the way he depicted Japan but also the way he approached Japan. While American Orientalism seeks to define “others” to distinguish themselves as American to establish their own identities, Heine absorbed the nature of Japanese sceneries, culture, tradition, and people on the path to finding his own identity. Because he was true to the way of interacting with Japanese people, his art works too reflected the clear scenes of what he really saw. Despite this absence of Americanness, he contributed very much to the US in his expeditions, publications, and the Civil War.

By looking at his German aspect through German Orientalism, it became obvious that Heine saw Germany’s similarities with Japan as “picturesque”, which would be similar to German Orientalists who saw Japan as, likewise, a nation with a delayed civilization, but inferior to Germany. Some landscapes were recalled in several places Heine dropped by during Perry’s expedition. His education and artistic sense polished up in Dresden and Paris led Heine to a different way of approaching Japan than Perry and other American crews to be called American Orientalists. Heine’s observation of “picturesque” scenes during the voyage were built up by those Heine had seen in Germany, and his attitudes towards Japanese were so neutral that they became helpful for Germans in the next voyage. Participation in the Civil War did show a huge impact on Heine as an American, however, Heine categorized in one of the Forty-Eighters leaves him to be the same German as other Germans in the states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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