Exhibition: Japan – Modern. Elise Wessels Collection

Rijksmuseum - Japan. Modern. Elise Wessels Collection

Exhibition dates: 24 June – 11 September 2016 

For the first time ever, the Rijksmuseum will be presenting 170 Japanese prints from the Elise Wessels Collection, picturing Japan’s rapid modernization during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Alongside prints, the exhibition will feature kimonos and lacquerware from the Jan Dees and René van der Star Collection and posters on loan from the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

In the early 1900s, Japan was booming. Its modern urban centres offered a fertile climate for burgeoning industries and gave rise to new forms of leisure. As in Europe and America, women were pushing back old boundaries, forging a new model of the ‘modern girl’. Alongside optimism, there was also a prevailing sense of nostalgia, fed by feelings of uncertainty. In this era of vast change, the past was glorified as an ideal.

With Japan in the midst of this whirlwind development, a devastating earthquake struck in 1923, ravaging the city of Tokyo and many towns and villages for miles around. Work immediately began on reconstruction of the country’s capital, putting the pace of modernization into an even higher gear. Synthetic fabrics made clothing, including kimonos, more affordable, and in their window displays the new department stores showcased the latest fashions to tempt shoppers. By 1930, Tokyo was a modern world metropolis that bore little resemblance to the city it had been just a few decades earlier.

Dedicated to Japanese prints from the first half of the twentieth century, the Elise Wessels Collection is unique in the Netherlands and among the best in the world from this period outside Japan. The collection currently contains some 2,000 prints of exceptional quality, collected over a twenty-five-year time span. With a large selection of prints in both the Shin hanga and Sōsaku hanga styles represented, the collection is furthermore unusual in offering a virtually comprehensive overview of Japanese printmaking during this period.

For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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