Image: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), ‘The Hollow of the Deep-Sea Wave off Kanagawa’, 1831, from the series ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji’. Image courtesy of Bristol Culture, Bristol Museums & Art Gallery.
9 March 2022
- Significant new exhibition at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum exploring the impact of Japanese art and culture, 2 April – 2 July 2022
- Exhibition brings together for the first time newly researched Japanese ukiyo-e prints and Samurai armour from the Worcester City and Worcestershire County collections, plus items from Museum of Royal Worcester, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Tate
- New research into Worcester’s collection, undertaken during Covid-19 closures, prompted decision to stage this exhibition
A significant new exhibition opens at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum on 2 April 2022 exploring the extraordinary influence of Japanese art and culture.
Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan brings together for the first time newly researched Japanese ukiyo-e prints and Samurai armour from the Worcester City and Worcestershire County collections, 19th century Japanese illustrated books and ceramics from the Museum of Royal Worcester, Hokusai’s Great Wave from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and contemporary woodcuts from Tate.
Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.
After centuries of isolationism, Japan opened up to foreign travellers in the 1850s, and the Western world encountered a culture unlike any other. Japanese art and design were completely different from Victorian styles, and a huge fashion for everything Japanese consequently developed in Western Europe and Great Britain during the 1860s and 70s.
As traditional ukiyo-e prints began to be seen in the West, artists immediately responded to images that broke all the rules of Western art, and that appeared so daring and unexpected in their design and use of perspective and colour. The Impressionists took particular inspiration from ukiyo-e: Van Gogh collected them, and the Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts movements were deeply influenced by Japanese design.
New research was undertaken into Worcester’s Japanese print collection during 2020, whilst museums were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the prints were created by artists from the popular Utagawa school, plus there are notable examples from Utagawa Hiroshige and Keisei Eisen. Visitors to Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan will be able to see the collection of ukiyo-e brought together for the first time, alongside a newly restored 19th century suit of Samurai armour with sword.
The trend for Japonism extended to the designs of Worcester’s most famous export – Royal Worcester Porcelain – and the exhibition includes 19th century woodblock-printed books and photographs of Japanese scenes and people, acquired by the company to provide inspiration for the porcelain designers. Many of the books have been dismantled, and their images copied and adapted for use in porcelain manufacture. The resulting designs can be seen in exquisite items of porcelain on loan from the Museum of Royal Worcester.
One of the most recognisable images in Japanese art, The Hollow of the Deep Sea Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai – better known as The Great Wave – forms a centrepiece of the exhibition. It sits alongside contemporary prints on loan from Tate, created in 1993 by Masami Teraoka, that illustrate the development of the ukiyo-e style into the modern age. A series of 20th century silk embroideries, hanging scrolls and ivory netsuke from Bewdley Museum complete the exhibition.
Kate Banner from Museums Worcestershire said: “This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to show these artworks and objects together for the first time, and to explore the cultural and artistic exchange between east and west. It is with great pleasure that we’re able to present new research that sheds light on this wonderful collection – particularly given that it stems from new ways of working during a very difficult year. We hope visitors will enjoy learning more about how the enduring fascination with traditional Japanese art has evolved.”
This exhibition is made possible with a grant from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.
Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “The Weston Loan Programme empowers smaller museums to bring fascinating art and objects to local audiences, where they can be experienced through the lens of regional history and heritage. We are delighted to support this intriguing exploration of the links between Japanese art and Worcester’s art and design heritage.”
For further information contact:
Helen Stallard, PR on behalf of Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum on 0774 033 9604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Large, at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum on 01905 25371 or email Helen.Large@worcester.gov.uk
Thursday 31 March 2022, 11am
Join the curators at Worcester Art Gallery & Museum as they install the final artworks to the Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan exhibition.
RSVP to Helen Large, at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum on 01905 25371 or email Helen.Large@worcester.gov.uk
Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan
2 April – 2 July 2022
Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, Foregate St, Worcester, WR1 1DT
FREE entry, no ticket required
10 May – Bite size talk: Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan – hear about the research and conservation work done for this special exhibition. Talks start at 1.30pm, £3. Book here.
20 May – Gallery tour of Hokusai’s Great Wave: Reflections of Japan. An informal tour of the exhibition with our curator. Meet at the Art Gallery desk 11.30am, (tours last 30 – 60 mins), £3. Book here.
More details at www.museumsworcestershire.org.uk
Notes for Editors
About Museums Worcestershire
Museums Worcestershire is the joint museum service of Worcester City and Worcestershire County Councils. It comprises three fantastic venues – Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, the Commandery in Worcester and The County Museum at Hartlebury Castle.
The collections and exhibitions at our sites are many and varied, covering centuries of the county’s history right up to the present day. Thousands of objects, including the historic buildings themselves, are brought to life through innovative exhibitions and events throughout the year.
Garfield Weston Foundation
Established over 60 years ago in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, grant-making charity which supports causes across the UK and, in the most recent financial year, gave over £99million. Since it was established, it has exceeded donations of more than £1billion, of which well over half has been given in the past ten years.
One of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees are descendants of the founder and they take a highly active and hands-on approach. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business which includes Twinings, Primark, Kingsmill (all part of Associated British Foods Plc) and Fortnum & Mason, amongst others – a successful model that still endures today; as the businesses have grown, so too have the charitable donations.
Known for its transparency, flexibility and straightforward approach, the Foundation supports a broad range of charities from small community organisations to large national institutions. Around 2,000 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants.
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. In response to Covid-19 Art Fund made £3.6 million in urgent funding available to support museums through reopening and beyond, including Respond and Reimagine grants to help meet immediate need and reimagine future ways of working. A further £2 million has been made available in 2021 for Reimagine projects. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by the 131,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year. The winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 is Firstsite in Colchester.