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
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”.
Casual poses taken by ordinary people which appear in “Hokusai Sketchbooks” stimulated Degas’s quest for his renditions of dancers.
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”.
◆ 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.
Previously, young girls had been represented typically in well-mannered poses. But the bored pose of this girl resembles one that appears in “Hokusai Sketchbooks”.
Gift to readers
amuzen will give to its readers five pairs of invitations to the exhibition, via a lottery process.
*The invitations shall be sent to the winners without an announcement on the website.
Application deadline: 15 October 2017
Link to the application page
The application is closed.
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