Exhibitions & Displays: Future
Threads Of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles From Meiji Japan
9th November 2012 to 27th January 2013
This autumn, the Ashmolean Museum presents the first exhibition devoted to the art of Meiji textiles ever to be held outside Japan.
Many of us are aware of the beauty of the traditional Japanese kimono; THREADS OF SILK AND GOLD: ORNAMENTAL TEXTILES FROM MEIJI JAPAN will introduce the less well known but equally spectacular ornamental textiles that were made for the Western market during Japan’s Meiji era (1868–1912). This was the famous period of Japonisme, which saw the European Impressionist painters exploring themes and styles taken from Japanese art, and Victorian rooms filled with Japanese decorative arts and crafts.
The Meiji era was an extraordinarily rich artistic period. As well as prints, ceramics, lacquerware and metalwork, Japanese artists produced exquisite embroideries, sophisticated resist-dyed silk and velvet panels, grand tapestries, and appliqué work that entranced Western audiences with their innovative designs and brilliant craftsmanship. These textiles ranged in size from large-scale wall hangings and folding screens to small panels in western-style picture frames. Ornamental textiles made in Kyoto became some of Japan’s best-known export items: no fashionable Victorian home was without its Japanese hangings; they were displayed to great acclaim at international exhibitions; and they were often presented as diplomatic gifts from the Japanese imperial household and government. The makers of Meiji textiles, seeking to modernize traditional modes of visual representation, aspired to create ‘painting in silk thread’. Sometimes they replicated specific western pictures. More often, they collaborated with contemporary Japanese painters to create dazzling new images that more than ever before realised the aesthetic potential of silk thread as an artistic medium.
THREADS OF SILK AND GOLD comprises some 40 examples of the highest-quality Meiji textiles from the newly acquired collection of the Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto. Pieced together from around the world, this outstanding collection is one of the finest and most comprehensive of its type in existence. Also on display will be some superb pieces from the Ashmolean’s own collections.
Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said, “We are honoured to be the very first museum to exhibit this extraordinary collection to the public. The Ashmolean has a strong tradition of holding pioneering exhibitions of Japanese art from the Meiji era and we are delighted to extend this focus on Meiji art to ornamental textiles. THREADS OF SILK AND GOLD will mark another major milestone in the revival of interest in this still littleexplored field of Japanese art.“
Exhibition | 9 November 2012–27 January 2013 | Galleries 57, 59 & 60 | £6 / £4 Concession
The Ashmolean is grateful in particular to Masayuki Murata, Director of the Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum, for allowing the Museum to show the collection in full at the Ashmolean Museum first; Malcolm Fairley and Robert Brandt, who assembled the textiles over many years; and Dr Hiroko T. McDermott for her curatorial expertise.
The associated programme of events has been supported by:
Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation
The Story Fund
The Embroiderers Guild
Japanese Art at the Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean is home to a superb collection of Japanese paintings, screens and woodblock prints, and has especially fine collections of decorative arts, including sword furniture, inrō and netsuke, lacquer and metalwork. There has been Japanese material in the Ashmolean’s collections from the very beginnings of the Museum’s history, as part of the Tradescants’ cabinet of curiosities. The Museum has since received a number of significant Japanese art collections, but the Japanese holdings really came into their own under the keepership of the late Dr Oliver Impey, who had a remarkable career of nearly forty years
of collecting from the 1960s. Dr Impey’s great passion and one of the highlights of the entire Museum is the collection of 17th and 18th-century Japanese export porcelain – one of the finest collections in the world. Other highlights are the prestigious dishes made for the 18th-century Nabeshima clan, rugged tea ceremony wares, and modern pieces such as the magnificently glazed porcelains made by Makuzu Kōzan from c.1900. In addition, the Ashmolean has a strong tradition of holding pioneering exhibitions of Japanese art from the Meiji era (1868–1912). Previous exhibitions curated by Dr Impey have included his 1991 exhibition of Meiji metalwork, The Dragon King of the Sea, one of the first to be held since the Meiji period itself. This ground-breaking Meiji show was soon followed in 1995 by Bridging East and West, an exhibition of ceramics by the leading Meiji potter Makuzu Kōzan. Admission to the Ashmolean is free. For more information visit: www.ashmolean.org
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