After a lovely morning and lunch with one of my quilting groups I took a friend to the member preview of a small but interesting exhibition at NGV International. It’s topic is Japan and the Birth of Modern Art. Using works from the gallery collection, it is an exploration of the influence of Japan and Japanese Art on European and Australian artists.

Unfortunately a lot of other members thought attending the curator floor talk a good idea too. The curator is in about the centre of this photo.

Fortunately the PA system worked very well and while not being able to see specific works, at least you could hear what he and the other curator had to say. Seeing works from the familiar art movements of the 19th and early 20th century alongside the ceramics, block prints and textiles from Japan that had a huge influence on their development was fascinating. It gave an insight into how novel the Japanese aesthetic was at the time and how quickly it was embraced, not only by copying but by adapting compositional techniques and the use of everyday subject matter.


Nearly everything is displayed in very dark cases with dramatic lighting.

The serving platter is part of a new acquisition from the Bracquemond Rousseau dinner service designed in France in 1866 by Feliz Bracquemond after work by Katsushika Hokusai.

Cockatoo is stunning piece of French majolica from 1870 shows the popularity of the exotic.

Having just seen the documentary The First Monday in May, a behind the scenes look at the mounting of the fashion exhibition ‘China Through the Looking Glass’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the corresponding 2015 Met Gala, I had a bit more of an idea of what goes on in mounting an exhibition. By the way it is great viewing and on iView until 19 June.

Still, it was a bit disappointing to find a couple of glaring problems with this NGV exhibition. As my friend pointed out, the labels were placed so that the reflected light flared on them, or your own shadow obscured the print.

An interesting set of lithographs from 1901 by the Austro-Hungarian designer Koloman Moser, were intended to be adapted for use in wallpaper, textiles and other flat surfaces  After much puzzling we figured out the labels did not match the layout of the prints so I could not find Wish hat, fabric in two colours at all. It was easier to identify this one as Silvanus, a printed textile design.

I think I will drop in again for a second viewing when it is not so crowded.


2 responses to “Japonisme

  1. Thanks for taking me along!

  2. Interesting.

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