Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Inspiration Japan at Kunsthaus Zurich

I greatly enjoyed a recent trip to the latest exhibition at Zurich Kunsthaus - 'Inspiration Japan' which runs until 10th May. And indeed it was inspiring, featuring many pieces from the private Japanese art collections of Monet and his fellow painters. I made lots of sketches (a few posted below) which I hope to shape some of my own artwork.

It was amazing to see how the great artists of the 19th century - in particular Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Degas and Bonnard - were inspired by Japanese art. And Picasso - who is featured in an extraordinary culmination of the show with a comical, rather saucy and very explicit series of sketches by the great man - which I imagine are very rarely seen!

The focus of the exhibition examines the early phase of Japanese art's reception in France between 1860 and 1910, spawning the mania which formed the 'Japonisme' (the term of which was coined in 1872) art movement. At this time, Japan was emerging from more than 200 years of complete isolation and the craze in the West for Japanese Art was spurred by a wealth of imports presented at the world's fair exhibitions, in particular Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1878.

Admission is 22chf or 27chf for admission to the gallery's entire collection.

The publicity artwork featuring Chrysanthemenbeet, Claude Monet, 1897

Sketch from Père Tanguy, Van Gogh, 1887. This very famous painting is the one you arrive at on entering the exhibition room. Père Tanguy ran the art shop in Paris where Van Gogh acquired most of his materials and they became great friends. Père wasn't too bothered about Japonisme himself but the background instead reveals Van Gogh's love of the artwork. Van Gogh's following piece of The Courtesan (1887) shows how he idealised the Japanese culture and way of life - in a letter saying: 'Isn't it almost a new religion that the Japanese teach us, as if they themselves were flowers? ...we wouldn't be able to study Japanese art without becoming happier and more a world of convention.'

My colour sketch of Chrysanthemum, Keisai Eisen, 1830 in pencil crayons. In Japanese culture the Chrysanthemum is a revered flower, symbolising long life and holding the allegorical representation of the imperial family and this was embraced by the Western artists, as in the marketing poster by Monet above. A few steps on from Eisen's Chrysanthemum is a beautifully delicate painting  - Chrysanthemums and Horsefly by Katsushika Hokusai which was a part of Monet's private collection.

Sketch from Sower with Setting Sun, Van Gogh, 1888

Sketch from La Paresse (Laziness) Felix Vallotton, 1896

Sketch from Inside Kameido Tenjin Shrine, Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857

Detail sketch from Mishima Pass in Kai Province, Hokusai, 1830-31 and bottom, detail of one of a series of Comparisons of the flower arrangements of beautiful women, Kitagawa Utamaro, which greatly influenced the domestic bathing works of Degas.

Sketch from The Tokaido, Utagawa Hiroschige, 1858

Detail sketch from 4' high porcelain vase, Fukagawa manufacture, c1878

Beautiful Japanese inspired bouquet at the Kunsthaus reception 

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