NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ.- The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum
at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, presents fourteen French and American paintings and ceramics inspired by Japanese art and aesthetics, a style known as Japonisme. Selected from the Zimmerlis renowned Japonisme collection, one of the largest of its kind, Japonisme Highlights: Paintings and Ceramics from the Collection presents a stunning group of nineteenth-century French and American objects that demonstrate the powerful impact of Japanese art and craft on Western artists. Featured in this display are decorative arts objects designed by Félix Bracquemond, Joseph-Théodore Deck, Emile Gallé, a founder of the Art Nouveau style, and J. Vieillard & Cie. The exhibition is curated by Christine Giviskos, the Zimmerlis Associate Curator for Nineteenth-Century European Art.
After United States Commodore Matthew Perry and his fleet arrived in 1853, Japan established trade and diplomatic relations with the West, ending Japans self-isolation of more than two hundred and fifty years. During the 1860s, Japanese prints, books, textiles, and ceramics became increasingly available in European capitals. The 1862 International Exhibition in London, the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris, and the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia played a major role in presenting Japanese art to a large and fascinated public. Artists in France, England and the United States soon began incorporating Japanese motifs into their works, making Japonisme a major artistic trend during the late nineteenth century.
European ceramics manufacturers responded quickly to the new taste for Japanese wares. In 1866, François-Eugène Rousseau, a Paris porcelain manufacturer, commissioned Félix Bracquemond, a prominent French printmaker, to create designs for a porcelain dinner service. Bracquemond adapted designs of flowers, plants, fish and insects he had studied in Japanese prints. This innovative use of Japanese motifs on French porcelain created a sensation when the Rousseau service was exhibited at the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition, prompting an explosion of Japonisme in the 1870s. This exhibition features several pieces from the Rousseau service, as well as ceramics by the Bordeaux firm J. Vieillard et Cie, which made Japanese-inspired works a central part of their production during the 1870s and 1880s. Also on view is Joseph-Théodore Decks large ceramic figure La Japonaise, a masterpiece of form and decoration, as seen in the elegant figures intricately colored and patterned kimono.
Several paintings in the show demonstrate the ways Western artists took on both the subject matter and compositional style of Japanese paintings and prints in their own work. Paul Marie Lenoirs Japanese Ferry shows a group of young Japanese women on a pleasure boat, a common subject in traditional Japanese prints known as ukiyo-e, "depictions of the floating world, representing daily life and leisure activities. Charles Guilloux's Moonlight Landscape with Poplars and Charles Caryl Coleman's Night Owl both derive their evocative tonal qualities from Japanese landscapes. Coleman's painting is also among the earliest works by an American painter to embrace the Japanese aesthetic.
Suzanne Delehanty, Director of the Zimmerli Art Museum, noted, "Our Kusukabe-Griffis Gallery for Japonisme is a jewel that has been long-treasured by our visitors. During its renovation, this exhibition and future small installations of Japonisme will present these much loved objects in other gallery contexts so that our audiences can experience them anew."
The Zimmerlis Japonisme collection (comprising paintings, drawings, ceramics, prints, photographs, and rare books) is a significant extension of its notable holdings in late nineteenth-century French art; it also reflects the historic connections between Rutgers University and Japan. The Zimmerlis Kusukabe-Griffis Gallery, established in 1994, is named for Taro Kusukabe, who in 1867 enrolled at Rutgers College to become one of the first Japanese students to enroll at an American institution of higher education, and William Elliot Griffis, and 1869 Rutgers College graduate who became one of the great early scholars of Japanese culture.