Exhibition: Dressed to Impress – Netsuke and Japanese Men’s Fashion

Exhibition dates: 4 November 2017 – 22 April 2018

This exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art (MEAA) in Bath, held in partnership with the British Museum, explores the intricate accessories worn by Japanese men during the Edo period (16151868). Netsuke are a form of miniature Japanese sculpture that were primarily functional, but that evolved into an important art form.

The exhibition features a selection of netsuke, chosen from over 2,300 in the British Museum’s collection, with more pieces added from MEAA’s collection to show the range and beauty of these objects and their excellent craftsmanship. Netsuke come in a variety of forms and materials such as wood, ivory and porcelain. The beauty of these objects is in their individuality, and is reflected in the variety of the netsuke on show: a goldfish, a Chinese boy holding a lion mask and a drum and fox’s mask (pictured above). Also on display will be a number of inro (cases for holding small objects), a sword and smoking accessories.

The exhibition places the netsuke and other objects in context with a sword and bespoke male kimono to demonstrate how they were worn as a complete outfit in the eighteenth century.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.

Advertisements

Event: Fit for the Future? The Kimono in Contemporary Japan

Event date: Thursday 23 November, 4–6pm

With few young Japanese people choosing to wear the kimono, and fewer still choosing to buy one of these expensive traditional garments, the shops and craftspeople who sell and make kimonos are facing troubled times. Third-generation kimono shop owner Yoshihide Shibakawa is coming to St Cross College, Oxford, next week to deliver a special talk on his vision of the future of the kimono and what it means to be a retailer in the traditional industries in twenty-first century Japan. There will also be a chance to try on real Japanese kimonos in the second half of the event.

For more information, please contact St Cross DPhil student Julie Valk.

Textile Tidbits: Handmade in Japan – The Kimono

For my latest Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about the production of kimonos in present-day Japan.

This programme visits the remarkable island of Amami Oshima in the southern oceans of Japan, to follow the elaborate handmade production of a traditional Japanese kimono. Over five hundred people are involved in producing the island’s famous mud-dyed silk, which takes many months to produce. The film follows the painstaking process of the silk being bound, hand dyed, woven and finally turned into a kimono by a seamstress. Along the way we not only discover the history of the kimono tradition, but also the many difficulties facing the kimono industry in modern Japan.

To watch this programme online, visit the BBC iPlayer website (unfortunately for international readers, this video is only viewable in the UK).

Exhibition: Kimono and Obi – Romantic Echoes From Japan’s Golden Age

Baltimore Museum of Art - Kimono and Obi

Exhibition dates: 10 July 2016 – 15 January 2017

The Baltimore Museum of Art presents an exquisite selection of late nineteenth- and mid-twentieth-century kimonos and obis that have never been shown before. Obi are wide sashes wrapped around the kimono wearer’s waist and tied in an ornate knot at the back. These stunning garments were made after the lifting of sumptuary laws during Japan’s Edo period (1603–1867), when commoners were forbidden to wear showy clothing with colours such as red or purple. The Meiji Era (1868–1912) coincided with increased prosperity as Japan entered the industrial age, and this newfound wealth was often expressed in lavish garments. Many of these kimonos displayed decorative motifs with symbols of the Imperial Court, especially those referring to the Heian Era (794–1185), considered Japan’s golden age, when the court was in its most powerful, refined and romantic period.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a furisode long-sleeved early twentieth-century kimono that is yuzen-dyed and hand embellished with gold and silver leaf, gold and silver metallic paints and embroidery, and lined in red silk decorated with gold pigments. Six other kimonos, 8–10 obis, and related Japanese objects will also be displayed.

For more information, visit the website of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, USA.

Exhibition: Mingei of Japan – Treasures New and Old from the Museum’s Collection

Mingei International Museum - Mingei of Japan

Exhibition dates: 2 April – 2 October 2016

After the Mingei International Museum’s year and a half devoted to American folk art, craft and design it seems appropriate to return to Mingei’s origins and to plumb again the rich core of the museum’s collection, its Japanese arts of daily life. Brief selections from Soetsu Yanagi’s writings (he coined the word mingei) accompany and give context to a wide range of objects, not thought of as art until Yanagi’s inspired insight, but today recognised as beautiful and timeless.

Recent gifts and purchases will be featured along with long-held objects that are well-known to museum members and much admired by them. Among donated treasures to be seen for the first time will be important textiles: indigo-dyed bedclothes, futon covers, door hangings, wrapping cloths, kimono, kimono belts made from recycled material and painted Boys’ Day and birthday banners.

A large selection from 153 mostly nineteenth-century Shinto ema paintings just acquired by purchase will also be exhibited for the first time. These are folk paintings, depictive of animals familiar and exotic, of vegetables and people in a truly disarming manner. They were sold at shrines (and still are) and hung there by devotees as offerings to accompany prayers.

Among familiar treasures will be baskets, soba cups, tea kettles and pots, cabinets, distinctive coats of the Ainu (Japan’s indigenous people), kimono of national treasure Keisuke Serizawa, a selection of anonymous pottery as well as that of famed potters Kanjiro Kawai, Shoji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka.

For more information, visit the website of the Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California, USA.

Exhibition: Breitner – Girl in Kimono

Rijksmuseum - Breitner, Girl in Kimono

Exhibition dates: 20 February – 22 May 2016

George Hendrik Breitner was born in Rotterdam in 1857. In 1876 he attended the academy in The Hague, before working for a year in Willem Maris’ studio. In this early period he was influenced by the painters of The Hague School. Breitner deliberately chose his models from the lower classes: workers, maids and residents of poor districts. He saw himself as ‘the people’s painter’. In 1886 he moved to Amsterdam, where, among other things, he captured city life in sketches, paintings and photographs. Sometimes he made different images of a single subject from different angles or in different weather conditions. On occasion, photographs served as a direct example for a particular painting, such as the girls in kimonos. Breitner was a contemporary of Isaac Israëls. Both artists belonged to the Amsterdam Impressionism movement.

The countless versions of a girl in a kimono, which is considered an icon of Japonism, emerged between 1893 and 1896. Young model Geesje Kwak posed for almost all of Breitner’s paintings, being immortalised in the process. Based on new research, the exhibition displays the full series of fourteen paintings for the first time, including a hitherto unknown ‘Girl in a Red Kimono’ from a private collection. Besides the paintings, there are also drawings, sketches and photographs used by the artist in preparation.

There have been exhibitions in the past devoted to this beloved theme of Breitner’s, but the paintings of Girl in a Kimono have never been displayed all together. Displaying all the Girl in a Kimono works together, combined with the preliminary studies in the form of drawings, sketches and photographs, as well as Breitner’s easel and paint box, gives the exhibition above all an impression of the way in which the painter went about his work in his studio on the Lauriergracht in Amsterdam.

In total there are twenty paintings on display, including thirteen Girl in Kimono works and one nude. Furthermore, fifteen drawings and fifteen photographs are displayed, plus Japanese prints, and two beautiful kimonos from the same period as those worn in the paintings.

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

News: Re-opening of the V&A’s Refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art

V&A - Toshiba Gallery re-opening

The V&A’s refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art will re-open on Wednesday 4 November 2015.

The gallery refresh is part of the V&A’s ongoing FuturePlan scheme of restoration and redesign to create beautiful and contemporary new settings for the museum’s outstanding collections. Originally opened in December 1986, the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art was the first major gallery of Japanese art in the UK. It was designed to show highlights of the V&A’s internationally important collection of Japanese art and design, which the museum has built up since it was founded in 1852. The refurbished gallery will exhibit around 550 works in a newly curated series of displays that will include 30 or more recent acquisitions. A group of kimono from the 1920s–1930s are among the recent acquisitions that will be shown in the refurbished Toshiba Gallery.

The gallery will illustrate the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistic creativity of Japan from the sixth century to the present day through displays of swords and armour, lacquer, ceramics, cloisonné enamels, textiles and dress, inrō and netsuke, paintings, prints and illustrated books. The lighting, graphics and display cases have been updated and the gallery reconfigured to give space to modern and contemporary objects such as interior design, product design, electronics, photography, graphics and fashion – both high-end and kawaii street. An outfit from Issey Miyake’s 132 5. range will be shown, which employs the concept of origami to create a piece of womenswear out of a single piece of fabric, as well as a pair of gravity-defying shoes by the brilliantly creative Noritaka Tatehana.

The history and traditions of Japan are explored in the Toshiba Gallery, as well as how they resonate in contemporary society, including themes such as religion and ritual, arts of the samurai, tea drinking, theatre and performance, fashionable dress, dress accessories, lacquer and elegant pursuits, ukiyo-e and the graphic arts, engagement with the West, Imperial Japan, folk craft and the modern and contemporary. The displays will be complemented by films about inrō, putting on a kimono and obi, how to make a sword fitting and how to put on a suit of armour.

Treasures of the gallery include the lavishly decorated Mazarin Chest, made in Kyoto around 1640, which is one of the finest pieces of Japanese export lacquer to have survived from this time; a wonderfully preserved late seventeenth-century six-fold screen depicting the Nakamura-za Kabuki theatre in Edo (Tokyo); a set of twelve inrō for the twelve months of the year by the renowned nineteenth-century lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin; utensils for the tea ceremony including several rare and important examples of ceramics; and a major group of extremely high quality cloisonné enamels from the period 1880 to 1910.

Admission to the Toshiba Gallery (Room 45) is free.

For more information, visit the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.