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Hokusai and Japonisme

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  • Hokusai and Japonisme

    21 October 2017 – 28 January 2018
    The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

    Japanese woodblock print called “ukiyo-e” developed into an art genre during the Edo period since the 17th century, to depict various subjects such as kabuki actors, Japanese beauties, historical and fictional characters, the everyday life of Edo (pre-modern Tokyo) and scenic sites. During the time of the country’s seclusion, ukiyo-e was brought out to the West mainly through trade with the Dutch. When Japan gave up its two centuries of isolationist policy in the mid-nineteenth century, yielding to the pressure of Western powers, ukiyo-e made its way to Europe and America in much greater quantity.

    The art of ukiyo-e, as a consequence, had a great impact on Western artists in Europe and America, and above all, in France. They admired it and studied various aspects of it – its compositions, colours, designs, subjects and themes, techniques and so forth – to create new styles of expressions. The craze for Japanese art was called Japonisme, which produced revolutionary effects on western art.

     

    Hokusai and Japonisme in this exhibition

    Of many ukiyo-e artists, Katsushika Hokusai, one of the greatest Japanese talents who lived in the late Edo period (1760-1849), played a particularly prominent role in Japonisme. His works, specially “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” and “Hokusai Sketchbooks”, had a tremendous impact on many artists, from Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, sculptors, to artists of decorative art and print. Without Japonisme and Hokusai, there might not have been Impressionism and modernism, or they might have taken a totally different course of development.

    The present exhibition will shed light on Western modern art from the viewpoint of Hokusai’s influence on them. It brings together, on the one hand, some 200 Western paintings from collections in Japan and abroad, and on the other, some 30 nishiki-e (multi-coloured woodblock prints) and 60 woodblock print books of Hokusai.

    This will be the first ever exhibition to display the two in comparison, revealing the way how the art of Hokusai was studied and adapted into works by Western artists, such as Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cassatt, Pissarro, Seurat and Bonnard.


    Some highlights of the exhibition

    ◆ Monet

    Compare the rhythmic composition of vertical tree lines in Poplars in the Sun by Monet, collector of ukiyo-e prints by Hokusai and others, with the composition of pine trees in Hokusai’s Hodogaya on the Tōkaidō, from “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”.

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Claude Monet Poplars in the Sun 1891, oil on canvas
    The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Matsukata Collection

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Katsushika Hokusai Hodogaya on the Tōkaidō from “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”
    c. 1830-1831, woodblock print; ink and color on paper
    Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.237
    Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art

     

    ◆ Degas

    Casual poses taken by ordinary people which appear in “Hokusai Sketchbooks” stimulated Degas’s quest for his renditions of dancers.

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Edgar Degas Dancers, Pink and Green 1894
    pastels on paper, mounted on board, 66 x 47 cm
    Yoshino Gypsum Co., Ltd. (deposited at Yamagata Museum of Art)

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Katsushika Hokusai Hokusai Manga, vol. 11 (detail) date unknown
    woodblock printed book; ink and limited color on paper
    Uragami Mitsuru Collection, Tokyo

     

    ◆ Cézanne

    In this Mont Sainte-Victoire painting, the mountain is in the background, seen from a distance, while the trees are foregrounded, just like in Hokusai’s composition of Fuji Seen from the Katakura Tea Plantation in the Province of Suruga, from “Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji”.

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Paul Cézanne Mont Sainte-Victoire c. 1886-1887, oil on canvas
    The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Katsushika Hokusai Fuji Seen from the Katakura Tea Plantation in the Province of Suruga, from “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” c. 1830-1831
    woodblock print; ink and color on paper
    MAK-Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/ Contemporary Art, Vienna
    Photo: ©MAK / Georg Mayer

     

    ◆ Van Gogh

    Before Hokusai, the depicting of flowers in the vase was the norm in Western still-life painting. But here, Van Gogh painted wild flowers in a close-up view, as in Hokusai’s work.

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Vincent van Gogh Roses 1890, oil on canvas
    The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Matsukata Collection

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Katsushika Hokusai Peonies and Butterfly c. 1830-1831
    woodblock print; ink and color on paper
    Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.211
    Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art

     

    ◆ Cassatt

    Earlier, young girls had been represented typically in well-mannered poses. But the bored pose of this girl resembles one that appears in “Hokusai Sketchbooks”.

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Mary Cassatt Little Girl in a Blue Armchair 1878, oil on canvas
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983.1.18
    Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

    北斎とジャポニスム展 国立西洋美術館 (amuzen article)
    Katsushika Hokusai Hokusai Manga, vol. 1 (detail)
    1814, woodblock printed book; ink and limited color on paper
    Uragami Mitsuru Collection, Tokyo

     


    Gift to readers

    amuzen will give to its readers five pairs of invitations to the exhibition by drawing lots.
    *The invitations shall be sent to the winners without an announcement on the website.
    Application deadline: 15 October 2017
    Link to the application page: (in process)

* The above is the information known at the time of publication and subject to change without prior notice.

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